Monday, May 28, 2007

found green

i have given up trying to distinguish between video art, documentary and fiction, especially when it comes to films about bombay. somehow the city tends to make all of them completely interchangeable. here choksi is astounded at discovering timber mill on a space reserved for a recreational ground on the development plan. hello! welcome to the city! she then stages a narrative of a man re-introducing nature in the form of saplings on the streets and looking for the one living tree that is in the middle of a factory. at the end he sits below the tree on top of a roof eating an apple. beneath the rather naïve premise- perhaps made even more so by my tendency to make even more reductive summaries- seems to be a yearning for a return of nature as facilitator of leisure. a shading device for reclining bodies and afternoon naps. i like trees too, but am a little worried when flower pots colonize the pavements so that vagrants cant walk on them. and for some reason i felt disturbed by that tendency in the film.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

the magic ball

sonal bought this on the street for 25 rupees. an amazing object. pink turns blue turns pink.

look here

avon house warming

last night at avon, a party with a lot of people- and a lot of diverse people. there were the film friends of mukul, the college crowd, amit’s juhu boy gang and the seniors - all of them finding different corners of the house. it was only when the seniors left that the crowds managed to mix. the dancing was particularly wild in certain quarters. ranjit made new cocktails, saurabh had carried potent korean rice wine and madhu came with an exotic mango liquer that we swigged at 4 in the morning making the cocktails in our stomachs even fierier. i had fun. a lot of it - though was worried whether everyone else did.

a long morning getting out of the house heading home with swigs of ajays home made baileys and mukul giving another great performance of ‘sally’ and ‘yogi’- which have to be experienced first hand to truly appreciate.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

shootout at lokhandwala

i wonder whether film makers actually believe that young men are as stupid as the intended audience of this awful film. taking a real life incident and turning it into a gruesome silly mindless sham is a crime. the guys in charge do not know what they are doing. the camerawork tilts, zooms in and out in sudden spurts like a tv soap. bombay was sepia tinted in the early nineties, didn’t you know? there is no move that is not too cheap for the film to take in attempting to seduce adolescent young men – the bickering peppered with expletives, heroes and villains as glamorous as models walking in slow motion with hair that bounces like in a shampoo commercial; and the grating clunky item numbers that the characters suddenly break into. all the acting is uniformly bad but would like to single out tusshar kapoors desperate attempt to be macho with his tinny voice, amitabh bacchans reprisal of all the roles he has done before as a farce; sanjay dutt and suneil shettys jaw droppingly unmodulated delivery; and all the tertiary actors who grow stubbles and cultivate a glower for intensity on screen. and to make it all seem oh-so-cool the guitar and music thumping background score that makes everything even more unbearable. undeniably the worst film i have seen this year.

Friday, May 25, 2007

a prairie home companion

in a mid western town a long serving live musical and comedy radio show is being disbanded by a texan corporation. as the shadow of death looms over the show- the end of an era - characters perform folk and country songs about what folk and country songs are about – the land, love, god, loneliness and death. as much as it is about the defeat of the ‘small’ in the face of globalization, the film is also about an old man coming to terms with his own mortality and wryly looking back at his life as an artist and the legacy that he would leave. characters contemplate the life that they have led and the memories that they are left with of people and places loved and lost in the matter of fact spirituality tinged with humor that forms the backbone of the film.

the music finds its own way of saying goodbye, by killing its feel good family values with bawdy humour. it’s as if a resignation to inevitable obsolescence is accepted by trying unsuccessfully to kill the ideals that it represented. like committing suicide before you are killed to make sure that your death is in your control.

and to take life away an angel of death walks behind the scenes offering solace to the grieving. but there is also the grim reaper in the form of the texan ‘axeman’ cynically watching what he can never become or have. even when he is gone though, the ending cannot be delayed. if the time has come for something to end, it must.

i wonder whether altman knew that this was to be his last film before he died at the age of 81. what a great way to go..

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

image post - highway - tree , transit , high rise

three images that make landmarks for me on the daily drive to work.

in borivili on the western edge of the highway a huge flower pot keeps a tree standing and alive while the road widening flattens all else around.

just near the dattapada road flyover, a new transit camp is built.

at thakur complex the twin towers with the sliver of sky in between- gokul concorde- as in the supersonic flight. did it sqeeze its way through the slot?

lunch at pop tates

chitra got her visa today. she is going to be at johns hopkins for a phd, and to celebrate the occasion we sat on the top floor of pop tates for lunch below the red white and blue billowing fabric with reverberating sound.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

rains / studio

a pre monsoon shower cooled for a while the sweltering heat of the day and made the light precise on the skyline as seen from avon. we sat in the balcony clicking photographs of each other clicking photographs of each other.

maybe it was the rains but all these heated and entertaining debates later in the day..

at the studio, amit spoke of 5d technology- the other d’s being time and costing and we spoke of how technology was making the idea of ‘design’ as imagined by the transcendentalists obsolete – or highly specialized.

in the evening nupur and kalpit joined in a conversation of spaces of theater and cinema, their history and how art forms, the spaces for their consumption and the landscape of the city were and are changing.

then a dinner at seven hills.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

photo post - lunch at vasai

mukul and me went to kausik and mohuas flat in vasai fro lunch yesterday. what a lovely house! with a view of gulmohurs in a courtyard on one side and flat plains as far as the eye can see on the other. trains criss-cross in the distance.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

photo post - dinner at manek

fabulous dinner at manek- which has to be one of the best designs of an apartment i have seen.

Friday, May 18, 2007

welcome home rohit

i was on my way back home from mukuls house when i saw him wave from a passing rickshaw. good to have him back.

image post - jvlr reflection overlap

fortuitous juxtaposition of the two sides - courtesy the windshield of the car. the commercial building reminds me of the drawings of the futurists.

som - amit - 'visual trajectories' - 'throne of frost' - 'in conversation'

not posted for two days now. not much to report about the day before excpet that mukul and me had lunch with som who is here from the usa at the airport restarant. 'golden chariot' i think it is called.

i spent some time with ak yesterday after a long time. after lunch at 5 spice in bandra we drove to town and were early for the lecture / book opening at ncpa. so instead, we spent some time at the galleries at kalaghoda. i had no idea that at the ngma they were showing ‘visual trajectories’ – a collection of indian art from the pre-colonial era through the post independence experiments up to contemporary work. i saw so many artists work for the first time. i think i need to give myself a course on indian art history. anju dodiyas ‘throne of frost’ is on at bodhi. it was an on-site installation at a palace in baroda that has been dismantled and is on display here in a new form. the panels were two sided pieces with upholstered seats on one side and her paintings of stories, self portraits and ythologies on the other. i am sure it must have felt very different in the original space where reportedly mirrors reflected bits of the paintings on all sides.

the lecture in the evening was a book release of a ‘conversation’ between sen and doshi, two icons of modern indian architecture. i don’t know how we are ever going to be able to escape or go beyond the identity question that seems to be the only real inquiry that we seem to have regarding architectural production. it’s a shame that besides this, which regurgitates images and ideals of a romanticized past, or the exigencies of climatic response there is no other issue that we seem to consider worthwhile. modernity and modernism are confused with each other; the architect is constructed as a tragic hero; the process of creation is mystified by making it transcendental- and therefore only to be ‘felt’ intuitively and therefore beyond conversation, rationality and critique. an individual signature style is developed that makes up in charisma for what it lacks in genuine concern. and in all this a book that positions itself as a theoretical “dialectic”. i guess it is a good thing that at least a need is felt to articulate something in a field notoriously evasive when it comes to talking theory.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

photo post - link road, andheri

on the main road all the buildings are turning into malls and high rise housing complexes, while on the inner roads old industrial complexes are getting glazing and aluminum composite cladding makeovers with recording, editing, sound recording companies inside. fantastic collisions abound as the smooth replaces the articulated; and as non-rectilinear shapes try unsuccessfully to distort the concrete boxes.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

recap of the day

in the morning while waiting for rupali on the college lawns i was witness to a classic strategy for the submission of individual identity to that of a group. games are played where animals are imitated; where raunchy hindi film songs are sung (suddenly forgetting the rather lewd undercurrents in the lyrics) and grown men and women regress into childhoods. laugh and cry like children. the submission of adulthood (maturity, rationality) to the impetuousness of childhood (freedom, irresponsibility) is a tool to make one what are actually very varied. the group is stronger by sharing their moments of letting go of respectability. i was wondering what the left wing equivalent of this could be. what can make one what are essentially disparate- and rightfully so. a mascot or a martyr? or a song? not ‘hum honge kaamyaab.. or for that matter ‘blowing in the wind’.. any version of it. or ‘imagine’.. or..

afterwards went off to shemaroo to watch a new film that jabeen was editing. a twisted murder mystery set in a small town in rajasthan with abhay deol, gul panang and raima sen. interesting story and good to see a real small town on screen.

a real shocker today was amit and mayuris sudden appearance in mumbai. giving no warning to anyone they suddenly turned up at my doorstep in the morning only to find me gone to college. seeing them walk out of the building from across the lawn, i could not believe my eyes for a while. mukul and me went and had lunch at amits place after shemaroo. it was good to see them again. amit is looking good having lost some weight and mayuri is still looking lovely in spite of gaining some.

protest / party / dinner

at the protest rally to free chandramohan, the baroda art student in custody after his work was considered too “obscene” for our delicate indian psyche. the crowd of 250 or so was divided into the earnest, the attention grabbing, the socialites, the backbenchers and the media. still, a lot of people did turn up on the steps of jehangir. all for a good cause - therefore i shall cut with the irony. at least something happened. more is needed to make sure that this kind of right-wing idiocy does not keep continuing.

after the rally, so many of the protests moved to gokul, like our did, where tamal, kausik, mohua, rupali, aparna, arijit, tapan, vinita, prachi and me sat and had a few drinks. i had to leave half way fo dinner at kuntals which was great fun. kuntal, nandita, ajay, surabhi, kavita and jabeen, along with mukul and me. sanaa and meha ran circles around us.

photo post – architecture –old /new

yesterday was a long day spent driving to and through different parts of the city. from the neo-old of hiranandani complex at powai- a spectacular skyline ravaging the lake and the mountains, to jogeshwari vikhroli lonk road where the neo-new architecture of pseudo-deconstruction makes a twisted cube, to opera house where the old gleams in the evening light; and some more at kemps corner and neapensea road where old and new collide against one another in spectacular ways. i was asked once a little testily - what is this obsession with ‘newness’ that i have? how an i not when the new takes on such strange and interesting forms all around me?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

secrets and lies

the first time i saw the film was with shamik in georetown- when on a sunday morning the two of us rode the metro to the city from greenbelt and sobbed away (or at least i did). today they showed mike leighs sap classic from the mid-nineties on z studio, where every sunday afternoon they have begun showing films that are not completely mainstream. this was the first one i watched.

the film has changed a lot for me since i saw it ten years back. while once i was completely drawn into the portrayal of lower and middle class britain; and fell for the rather melodramatic and overwrought storyline, this time although the characters and the context seemed fantastically drawn, the story was a little much.

about a black optometrician who discovers that her adopted mother is white and confronts her only to throw all lives into disarray; with an end that hints a reconciliation and happiness; the film is a classic soap opera tearjerker. i fell for it then, and i think i still did today- but with a few reservations. the cello moaning in between the scenes where people spoke was for me the real annoyance; but the scenes at the photo studio where people pose, or the chemistry between the main actresses, or the middle class anguish of the woman who fills her life with wallpaper and cushions to make up for her childlessness, still managed to draw me in with their acute observations of people and emotions. they felt real.

for the autonomy of spaces of art and education

paris, je t'aime

it must have the french tourism board that was behind this loving film about love in paris. also by the fact that most of the ‘foreign’ protagonists in the film were american, or had american connections the usa was obviously the primary audience for the film. even the stars were old hollywood stars – nick nolte and gena rowlands or young hollywood brats – elijah woods and natalie portman. such a transparent appeasement device was allowable perhaps because it was so transparent. the only foreign films it is assumed that we will watch are feel good fluff made for american tastes. and feel good this was – and very american.

the ‘concept’ of the film being that 18 film makers make love stories set in 18 different neighbourhoods in paris, each film being only 5 minutes long. the films ranged from fantastic, sappy, silly to ordinary- nothing terribly bad- which i guess nothing can be in a time slot of 5 minutes.


  1. the cussing man in the car who finds love when a woman faints near where he is parked
  2. gurinder chaddhas inter racial love story about a girl in a burkha – sweet and fuzzy
  3. gus van sants lovely boys who cant talk to each other because one is french, the other american, neither here-nor there
  4. a vampire story in ‘sin-city’ black and white with very red blood where elijah woods sacrifices himself for love,
  5. a pointless and meandering film about a day in life of a migrant housekeeper, very self-serious
  6. a charming mime episode where two odd people find love in a jail cell , really quite nice
  7. a beautiful and moving monologue by a denver postal worker in holidaying alone in paris in a flat american accented french
  8. a wild warped and fabulous personal take on his own chinese attachments by christpopher doyle
  9. the coen brothers hilarious film set in a metro station with steve buscemi playing the tourist
  10. nick nolte in a pointless little story about walking in paris to meet his grandson
  11. juliette binoche in a terrible sappy story about a woman mourning the loss of her son
  12. the only story about the african population in paris was a tragedy of a man and a nurse meeting when the guy is stabbed
  13. a spatting couple o their honeymoon visit oscar wildes tomb and make up with a little help from the ghost of the writer
  14. a nasty and sarcastic war of words between a couple about to divorce after each has found a much younger lover
  15. a couple playing out sexual fantasies to reignite their desires for one another
  16. a man about to leave his wife suddenly discovers that she is dying of leukemia and falls in love with her again
  17. a love story between a blind parisian and an american actress
  18. another pointless film about an actress and her drug supplier.

Friday, May 11, 2007

i am the very beautiful

if all documentary seems to be in one way or the other exploitative of its subject matter, what does one make of a film that follows the story of an bar singer and her life and loves? her story is has all the ingredients of a grisly epic drama; a teenage pregnancy, a failed marriage, numerous loves and losses, a suicide (murder?) attempt and the fleeting love of innumerable strangers. this would all be pretty much unwatchable if it were not for the filmmaker implicating himself along with us in participating with the construction of the story. self-consciously displaying his own strange friendship with her, and his obsession for her, the film destroys any clarity about the ‘real’ story. the body of ranu scarred and mutilated by burns repels as much as it attracts. the camera lingers over the scars longingly marking her body with our gaze, and implicating us in the process- as clean - and guilty as such. her body is offered as evidence of our own inability to stay outside the story. it appears dressed, undressed, described and caressed, eroticized and brutalized equally. ruthless in its inversions of looker and looked, sexual rights and wrongs, the film makes us suspend all possibilities of judgment. thoroughly brilliant.

photo post - press conference at chemould / kb nb mb at colaba/ nalini at sakshi / dinner at the ambassador

animals and birds rise from piles of construction materials around the press conference at chemould. some panda from Delhi's work, which prompted a joke - came to see pandas but saw goats instead.

met kuntal, nandita and meha at barista and went for a walk to the gateway. meha sat on chachu and mamus shoulders to and from- made for good photos too.

at nalini's preview show at sakshi - paintings on acrylic of mythologies and legends of women- medea, sita, radha and akka. distorted scatological forms morphing into one another and floating over game boards. sketch pen comic book illustrations also told stories in another layer.

madhu, mukul, nupur and me went for dinner to the revolving restaurant at the ambassador. my first time there. we started by looking at walkeshwar and ended via marine drive when we were looking at the air india building.