Monday, March 30, 2009

om darbadar

dev d decided to play homage to the scene in the film where it is least off kilter. the brass band song at a shaadi complete with late 80’s disco beeps. this is a film beyond description where words just cannot begin to capture the madness of ambition and flair. from the ‘bablu babylon se’ song to the frogs being dissected for the diamonds inside them, to the promise toothpastes plug to the conversations with atlas cycle who follows om around. fantastic. george said it was ‘the film’ as far as he was concerned and i am tempted to agree. just don’t ask me what the film was about.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

the river. suspect . thesis juries. birthdays of the week. thane belapur road

the only film i need to add to the relentless film list is tsai ming liang’s ‘the river’. here again as in ‘the hole’ water permeates into the hollow lives of a family each of whose members are living in a vacuum reaching out for warmth to strangers- the keeper of a porn video store or the shadows of a sauna where bodies find each other in complete darkness. all communication is broken down until the water invades the body of the young man and creates a debilitating neck injury or it pours down thorugh a leak in the roof until at the end in the heat of the sauna the boy and his father find each other.

last night mukul and me went to see shumona’s show in town called ‘suspect’. i loved the residual spaces that the exhibition found itself in. this one was behind a coffee shop in kala ghoda. the work was a series of photographs and films found at street corners around the world.
there can be nothing as depressing as a thesis jury. this time it was in new bombay and when i got there were no students at all. slowly they trickled in one by one until we got tired of waiting. those who came had no interest at all in their work, some of them had blatantly copied stuff and had no understanding of what they had done. the dance academies and cultural centers on plots in bandra kurla complex or kharghar. even when the issues were reduced down to services and loading unloading platforms we were left disappointed. as against that i can only be extremely happy about at least three of the thesis shown at krvia. pooja’s skillfully executed mediation between the institutions associated with a church and the city, mayur’s intense and beautifully detailed boys hostel and neelima’s clever redensification of a bandra village.

earlier in the week. aparna celebrated her birthday at sea view and on the same evening we surprised madhu on the eve of her birthday at her place.

here are some photographs taken on the way back from new bombay. thane belapur road with its new railway stations and the old industrial lands being transformed into glass towers courtesy reliance.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

mohan joshi haazir ho

seems very prescient of the film when in 1984 when the film was released there was no section 33/7 when amjad khan tells the evil promoters to give the chawl dwellers some small houses on the plot and on the rest build big houses as ‘delux’ flats on the open market. the proposal is refused by the promoters who would rather let the building collapse to clear the land completely for the older tenants. the film is a simplistic dark farce that follows idealistic mohan joshi and his wife as they make the rounds of courtrooms with their pair of slimy lawyers naseeruddin shah and satish shah trying to get their decrepit chawl repaired. bombay is a decaying mess of a city with the only spaces of romance being marine drive (naturally) and the terrace of the chawl from where the surrounding skyline of the defunct mills can be seen.

pune - sez's at hinjewadi/magarpatta / the bungalow

yesterday in pune we were clicking photographs at hinjewadi of the huge strange special economic zone that slices through the bald hills when we were stopped by police officers. a security risk it would seem. we managed to negotiate our way out with some photographs of the atrocious glass eggs and pyramids against the barren nothingness and some sings of future such atrocities by international starchitects like zaha hadid.

later at the beautiful bungalow was a discussion concerning technologies fro slum improvement in pune with a group of swedish archiects who claim to have found a solution for housing around the world. four columns and a slab. processes of delivery and techniques of construction led to a heated debate not yet resolved. for us, it might lead to a fourth year studio.

also made a presentation at a school of architecture which is currently right above a bus station before a drive through magarpatta sez where carbon copy glass trapezoids surround a huge green circle and housing projects stand silently around. surreal.

Friday, March 20, 2009

mahim beach / bandra worli sea link

new bombay housing typologies

some of the experiments in housing in new bombay- like a catalog of housing typologies- some successful some horrific. first the sites and services schemes in kopar khairane where the basic units have all but disappeared under gradually assembled buildings;

pankaj and pranoti modi's young architects project directly opposite vaguely mimicking correa's hierarchy of courtyards along a main spine. the bridges cut across the main spine but the buildings seem in dire need of repair.

then the original- artists village where the houses have grown incrementally madder than anywhere else i have feels like a designed gaothan. i don't know any one who understands scale like he does.

raj rewals horrific red monstrosity was the last stop on the trip. the red gritty exteriors collecting dust and grime as the rooms gather cobwebs and thewindows crack. the only way to make these habitable seems to be by first completely erasing all the 'architectural' details and replacing them with the paraphernalia of domestic messiness.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

lust, caution / zodiac / breath

recreating hong kong and shanghai in the time of the japanese occupation of china, ang lee makes them both gorgeous and lush. the seduction and the trapping of a senior government officials is done by a particularly beautiful woman and the sex scenes are explicit yet ‘tasteful’. as a feast for the eyes the film delivers a very tasty dish but somehow beyond that the period politics are simplistic hero vs villain- maybe necessary for a freedom fighter drama. the sexual tension in the air between the very good looking lead couple is crackling though.

the scariest thing about ‘zodiac’ is just how everyday it is. there are none of the tricks of a serial killer film. 5 murders happen right in the beginning of the film and rest of the film is merely a search for a killer that we know was never found for certain. we follow a cartoonist, a policeman and a reporter as they become obsessed with the murders and look for clues as independent detectives. when the clues begin to lead conclusively in one direction the case falls apart. this happens over and over again.

in breath kim ki duks film about the relationship between a woman trapped in a loveless marriage and a prison inmate on death row makes too many pat parallels for me. the jealousies of the husband and the inmate of the main couple also seem to follow patterns that are very clich├ęd. when the woman makes the seasons enter the life of the prisoner with wallpaper and music is when the film redeemed itself from its formulaic pattern- and that too because it so easily fit into my current framework for cinema city. it was almost an illustration.

albert pinto ko gussa kyun aata hain

the mill lands and a catholic gaothan are the setting for this film released in 1980. nasseeruddin shah plays a garage mechanic obsessed with foreign cars who is the son of a mill worker. the mill workers strike begins bringing up difficult questions for albert about his own sense of self and identity. in fact he is only able to resolve some of his problematic relationships with his family, girlfriend, co-workers and city when the mill workers strike opens out some closed doors in his head. shabana azmi plays the secretary in a travel agency whose boss is making moves on her by showing her dreams of far away. smita patil the sister of albert who works in a sari shop. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

street furniture / fountains and dividers

the first being a ‘garden’- a space removed from and therefore assimiliating and reconfiguring crawford market in front of paul’s room. the fountain becomes a pile of cartons and crates with objects gushing out at the top.

and the second is the highlight of the beautification project in our neighborhood. lic colony and ic colony are both not really marathi dominated and this wonderful woman stand at the junction in between these- one a christian dominated old village and the other a huge state built colony that was home to many middle class migrants in the 1970s. the slum near dahisar river nearby is however very marathi dominated- or at least is made to be by the vociferous shiv sena rhetoric that becomes its voice. shubha raul is after all from our constituency. the shiv sena first set up signboards outside each of the lanes of lic colony, then shubha raul came for local recreation club events- and now this beautification project that marathi-izes and hindu-izes an area that was earlier definitely not part of the right wing hindutva rhetoric of the rest of gujarati dominated borivili. in the last election we voted in govinda instead of ram naik after years of bjp domination- now from what i see around maybe its sena time.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

metropolis. eastern promises . virgil widrich

more films.
i really am sorry about these relentless film notes. its just that i am catching up on my film viewing for the cinema cities project. i had never seen metropolis which i know is just unforgivable for an architect interested in film and so i did. considering the glowing tributes to the film i have read and heard about so much is is all right for me to have problems with the laughable plotline about the heart bridging the gap between the hand and the mind or the bordering on comic expressionistic acting, or the silly imagination of technology as a demonic monster corrupting the workers minds against the brilliant but admittedly uncaring thinkers who live in the pleasure gardens below? the visuals though were spectacular- art deco gothic flourishes, aerial shots of shooting bridges, night lights, choreographed movements of crowds like they are all part of some gigantic fascist spectacle. the tower of babel rises over the criss crossing streets and railway lines, the yoshiwara sin city is a mish mash of oriental roofs, below the city is a labyrinth of tunnels and doorwayds that lead to an underground cathedral, in the boiler room men become machines and when the machine erupts it becomes an ancient tribal mouth that eats its slaves. it is incredible. the version i saw had this giorgio moroder soundtrack of 80’s electro art-pop- pat benetar and freddie mercury. you could almost see the big hair and shoulder pads.with so many of the scenes tinted red and yellow the movie became a kind of version of the long form music video that were popular in the 1980’s (remember ‘thriller’?).

david cronenbergs ‘eastern promises’ is a violent thriller about a midwife who gets into trouble with the russian mafia in london. viggo mortenson plays a chauffeur /killer; and naomi watts the midwife. i really enjoyed the film- brutal and gory though it was.

i also saw two experimental films by virgil widrich. ‘copyshop’ in which a machine reproduces a man over and over again until the whole world is merely the same person; and ‘fast film’ in which hollywood films are intercut with each other in a fantastic chase sequence as the fragments of the scenes interchange rapidly- where one actor becomes and other becomes a third. it begins with a kiss and ends with one and in between rushes through all the formulas that form the language of hollywood films.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

the belly of an architect . spirited away

i never thought that there could be a film on stomachs- their form, their purpose, their failurses. the archiect while obsessing over a boulee exhibition in rome suffers from severe stomach aches while photocopying multiple bellies and laying them on top of his, while his wife finally becomes pregnant even as she begins an affair with a younger competing person. the boulee buildings are also party to this obsession- newtons ceotaph opens up and is the place where the exhibition opens, while the lighthouse tower becomes a sex-toy. i read somewhere that tucked in between all of these is story about production and reproduction and perhaps the futility of it all. the architect dies gravity in front of newtons cenotaph. somewhere in the gorgeous images are tucked away references to master paintings and roman history. it is all very esoteric and still enjoyable.

‘spirited away’ is an anime film in which a little girl with her parents gets lost in fairytale landscape that turns out to be a bathhouse for the gods. as her parents are turned into pigs and she becomes a slave of the reigning witch she gets the help of river gods and insect like workers in boiler rooms. it is spectacular spatially and as i was reading about archetypes in the morning i was superimposing them on the spaces of the film. the field. the dungeon. the hearth. the tower. all seem to be an integral part of the coming of age and alice in wonderland story this is.