Sunday, January 29, 2006

ashes and diamonds

on the day the second world war ends, the rection to it is very different in poland vs the rest of the world. here, some feel that one colonizer is being replaces by another- the russians. in a small town outside warsaw, a hit man is hired by the resistance fighters to kill an aging communist leader; except that on that day he falls in love with a beautiful barmaid, who shows him the possibilities of a life outside. he is torn between his duty and his honour and the urge for a life beyond. a terrific film where his personal choices and symbols throughout represent the complicated nature of the nation being created in those days. some fantastic images- the burning vodka glasses on the bar table, the death scene on the garbage pile at the end, the inverted christ in the hollowed out church, the murder where the victim embraces his assassin, the blood on the bedsheets drying in the sun..

such a relief after the fiasco of ‘under one roof’.. a crappy campy cross cultural love story.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

thirst. mocha. aretha

it turned out to be quite a party last evening. after ‘thirst’ alan and deborahs film on the privatization of water sources in california, bolivia and india (very effective and a necessary a film) we (kuntal, mukul and me) were with them at ‘mocha’ smoking peach flavoured hookah and drinking exotic international coffees when bahaar (just back from the us) and saurabh and ranjit (who were at null bazaar for a reccy) called and met us there. so there we were, adding to the international quotient at a place that was anyway so very heavily populated by the young tourists and backpackers making their way through mumbai. the food was bland and luke warm and the coffee pretty stale – but its never about the food , right?
car music: aretha franklin – the queen of soul box set. the title says it all. a voice that can make you cry. the mid sixties stuff- ‘lady soul’ and ‘i never loved a man the way that i love you’ are stupendous and the latter merely great.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

republic day

morning at the playground near the school, where the administration and management paraded the entire institutional family wearing flouroscent yellow paper hats with the managements' name emblazoned across. when the kids sat down there was a sea of saffron with the nice marathi lady teachers standing guard in the middle of the ocean like sentinels. a military man was chief guest and we saluted him in the vaguely nazi salute invented for all those who toe the party line. i wonder whether love of land is only possible to instill through these rituals of allegiance.

irony on the way to the school - on the highway at malad, there was a makeshift flagpost and loudspeakers shrilly playing patriotic songs for the empty plastic chairs arranged in rows waiting for the locals to arrive. the slum dwellers whose houses were being demolished to make way for the shiny new western express highway had organized a republic day event to celebrate the creation of the constitution, whose guardians were violently uprooting them from their homes to god forsaken faraway lands.

car music: tricky - maxinquaye, pre millenium tension, angels with dirty faces, blowback. murky angst soaked soundtracks for urban nightmares in which strange vampiric creatures walk the streets lurking in the shadows sniffing for any vestiges of innocence to prey on.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

things to do before you are thirty - first do no harm

mukul and me we and saw ‘things to do before you are thirty’ last night at the hub - a film so unassuming you forget that you are watching it while you are in the theater. a british comedy that sources all the themes from the big hits of the past few years and tries and assembles them all in a story about a group of thirty something men who meet every sonday for a game of football. their respective love and sex lives come in the way as they try and play their 500th and their last game in honor of their coach. very tacky in every way- beside the obvious pandering to all the audiences tendencies that made other small time films become big like ‘the full monty’, ‘bend it like beckham’ or ‘four wedding and a funeral’, there was no semblance of any kind of attempt at any original thought. instantly forgettable and annoyingly cloying. it did no harm. perhaps i should recommend it to k g. at the lecture in the av room today, as he showed us ways in which we can ‘first do no harm’, he played john lennons ‘imagine’. if i hear another wanna be do-gooder play that song over flashing images of starving children and nuclear holocaust- i will scream out in agony.

happy birthday sonal (for yesterday)

Monday, January 23, 2006

older darker times / college dropout

incriminating evidence is found in the loft of the bathroom on the second floor. the cops are called in to examine the cigarette packets, credit cards and empty bottles of alcohol. in the wings, old stories of strange goings on in the evenings – on terraces and in locked doors are whispered amongst the staff (and doubtless amidst the students) – of times gone by when the world was seamier and darker. nowadays, its all lovers cuddling in the corridors and skipping and hopping in the canteen. sometimes i catch myself longing for those more terrible and traumatic times- and i catch myself before i get carried away. thank god for the newer, simpler, more innocent world in spite of the occasional police investigations.

car music – kanye west : “college dropout” hip hop that i seem to suddenly dig. spiritual, funky and surprisingly moving. ‘jesus walks’ had me dancing in my seat.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

sunday afternoon dream adventure

what does it mean if you are in a dream where you have donned the persona of a modern day tatya tope illustration in a marathi text book on a journey across great perils with no money in your pocket;

where a damsel in distress (who looks like a south indian actress) that you see in the half lit interior of the ship in which you have hitched a ride ends up by your side in a party on a lawn in front of a white punjabi baroque fa├žade with tons of mercedes benzes parked in bad hindi film night lighting;

where you are stuck on the top of a truck in the middle of a river with a bunch of strangers and live on international television; sitting on the wooden edge of a floor that is systematically flooding (it was an accident with this barge that is causing a flood in slovenia and it is your fault;

where you have to make a decision between what to save- your life or the red shoes that you bought in amritsar close to you as you place in them in the water and they float away - and if they do- your feet are going to freeze in slovenia further down the river.

there is another man who you see everyday in the half lit interior of the ship- this exact replica of you who acts as the gatekeeper- initially a little annoyed by your presence which he sees as a pollution of the sanctity of the space, but gets friendlier as time goes on- and mexico- the final destination gets closer.

what does it mean when the dream in interrupted at the point when at the punjabi baroque party a comic strip is revealed that chronicled your adventures around the world through the letters you wrote home to your mother?

and in the image you stand victorious slightly left of center of the long horizontal black and white frame holding a small knife up high in a gesture of victory? around you there are doe eyed african women in leopard skin on banana leaves around a campfire in a cave while the men folk are in the corner shadows wearing leaves as skirts and skull and bones as ornament.

mukul says freud says that feet and the covering of the feet are a sure fire symbol of phallic something or the other.

i just think that i have read too many comic books and seen too many middle career dharmendra films.

Friday, January 20, 2006

accidental death . false accusation

sandhya sawant, conservation architect and friend died yesterday, much to the shock of everyone who knew her. i knew her through the udri connections and also because of all the work she was doing in the city. sonal worked with her on the capitol project. she was around 40- years old, recently married and pregnant. she died of a so-called cardiac arrest on the operating table when she had gone for a routine procedure. the real story, we hear, has to do with an overdose of anesthesia. very sad. we still cant believe it. sudhir and sheetal who were in college yesterday when they heard had been in her office the previous night until 10 working on the jaisalmer fort project. both were in tears in front of the office.

the school was in high drama mode today as well when a students camera was stolen. his mother called in the cops and they took one poor child away to the police station for interrogations. they must have put the fear of god in him, as they even went and checked his apartment. the boy lives alone in juhu gulli and i am sure was completely distraught with all this tension. naturally the camera was not found on him. i wonder what happens now to the relationship between the two boys. hoping for peace and forgiveness.

vodka - black and white

there is something to be said for keeping a party small. at sopan and manohar's place at amboli, overlooking the old christian village on wednesday evening. drove there bopping to otis redding and trying my soul improvisations out with mukul giving background vocals. they have a lovely paper lamp lit house, with chick mat clad wooden sliders and a raised wooden floor (amit would be happy); and lots of art on the wall, including prabhakar kolte’s abstract stuff. manohar made beautiful chicken and the original russian vodka was super and since there was no one besides satya and swati, and the hosts there were many silences not filled in by the sound of other conversations or by randomly picked music played off the computer.

hopefully the last of the inspections of the term. the coa this time, coming for the masters programme. last night we took them out to dinner at golden manor in juhu, where i remember amit and me going for a swim one cold winter afternoon two years ago. the pool is hemmed in on all sides by the hotel and its gym where filmi types could be seen pumping away the iron while i had this strange black vodka- never seen before.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

opinions invited

are sad love stories the only love stories worth remembering? the only ones that move me?

can someone tell me one great one where the lovers meet at the end? - a "happily ever after" affair?

Monday, January 16, 2006

the gospel according to st ma....

i hate it when i have to watch only half a film. just when it was going pretty good for me in the ‘gospel according to st matthew’ by pasolini, just as the beautiful christ came to jerusalem knowing that he is going to be crucified, it turned out that the dvd did not have any more.

it is really frustrating. this is the second time that i have left this film half way- the first time was when i walked out of a sweaty screening in college.. not that i don’t know what happens at the end but i would really like to watch it completely from beginning to end once- at least.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

chris marker: ‘la jetee’ and ‘sans soleil’

though i had heard of ’la jetee’ through its hollywood connection via ’12 monkeys’ which was inspired by it, i had never ventured out to see it- even when it was quite easily accessible in america. when i saw a dvd of two chris marker films at sarvodaya yesterday i picked it up for lack of any other options. ‘la jetee’ and ‘sans soleil’

la jetee is a science fiction story abut memory and war. in post world war 3 paris, under the remains of the city, a man is sent back to the past and the future to save mankind to place where he had seen a violent incident. the film is told entirely in black and white stills with a voiceover, except for one scene where a woman flutters her eyes as she awakens from a dream. great short film but nothing compared to the next one.

in ‘sans soleil’ a woman reads out past letters from a cameraman, whose miscellaneous footage along with archive clips and synthesized video sequences, forms an edited report from other worlds – japan, africa, the us and france. its very tough for me to say exactly what the film was about, except for the fact that i did find myself in tears more than once. a line in film says something about making a list of 'things that quicken the heart.' this must be his attempt to make it, covering themes of civilizational conflict, time and space travel, culture, ethnography, politics, film making, poetry, memory and death. i am still reeling from the enormity of it all. there is no way anyone will be able to fathom it all with one viewing. i think i will get a copy made.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

thursday discussion, friday movie

the night at samiras place with a selection from the young architectural community of the city. samira, kapil, pinkish, shilpa, rajeev, kilawala, his wife, sameep, karen (from coop himmelblau – doing her research on young asian practices), prasad, rupali and me. a strange meeting amid the nail polish varnished floor and wooden furniture, where awareness of the ‘common man’ was spoken about. awareness of what- one was not really sore- and who the common man was, in the case of the kalaghoda art festival, was even more suspect. it turned out that everyone merely wanted to have a party in the first place. by the end of the meeting, the rebels gave up their purported cause and decided to party on nevertheless. prasad, rupali and me watched bemused high on sake, sushi and the fina alcohol at the bar.

i think madhu really might have made the definitive bombay film. at a screening yesterday at majlis, i was moved at some points to tears and laughter. its all that the script was promising it to be. a paean to a mad city – terrifying and beautiful- told through documentary and fiction interjected with each other. madhus writing of the manto and chugtai characters that frame the film through the seven episodes is spot on; and mukuls photography amazing. rahul said at the end that its strange to a city so over-photographed seen in a new way. its true.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

party photos from last year

meghanas wedding day

prasad and rupali

tatke sir, ainsley and manoj

lalitha and deepali

sharmishta and me

prasad and mohua

kaushik and amisha

laxmikant, lalitha, deepali and rupali

nikhil and jude

end of the year get togethers..
first at home where the family assembled after meghanas wedding reception.. and then a college party at irla..

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

annual week

a huge gargantuan undertaking it turned out to be. the workshops- all 5 of them with kids scrambling all over the place making things, writing things, discussing things and running away from things. the urban flashes workshop was the central theme of the week with the flashers telling us about their work in evening lectures- that began by being well attended and gradually disintegrated to the end of the week, until ravi sundaram’s friday lecture on the dark city. parallel ran paro, tushar and sarnaths workshops in rooms all over the place for the junior years, while the first years built bridges to nikhils heart. besides these were the annual party games- where kids ate pani puri in woerd configurations, tied blindfolds and ran around the lawn, etc..

by the middle of the week i was exhausted and by the end dead. the ‘micor urbanism’ seminar on the final day (sunday) started with the kids showing their solutions for the oshiwara river system—which unfortunately also included three young distinctly foreign looking girls painting some stones along the nalla yellow as an ‘urban tactic’.

all this talk of ‘positive terrorism’ left me rather cold. perhaps i am much too much of a ‘master plan’ kind of person. madhu, abhay and rupali also showed their work in the afternoon. i loved bits of madhus film- i found some of the scenes fantastic.

the same discussion continued in the panel discussion- what makes the community; what in the world is “micro” urbanism. kt in the evening lecture made it to be about forgotten ‘indian’ culture in the city’s quest for a futuristic metropolis. the more i think about it, the more i agree with prasad and rupali about the need for a serious look at literature on urbanism, especially in mumbai.

i had spent all day running around and it tired me out far more than even my trek to khajiar, the party in the evening was the so called talent night in the auditorium. mad. kids hopping around on stage- some actually who might have had some talent- but most just merely there to perform. it was hilarious and very funny. my favorite moment: “smells like teen spirit”; and of course ‘kajra re’ which is default great song to dance to.

the next day we were in the papers – page 4 – times of india. two weeks in a row. hmm.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

urban flashes and other workshops

its annual week again in college. this year the line up of workshops has a group of self defined ‘flashers’ from taiwan, finland and korea trying their hand at some tiny important intervention along the oshiwara river, sarnath banerjee’s animation workshop, tushar doing a installation workshop and paro coming over for a scipt writing thing. its all a big party in college in the early evenings when the kids play silly games until the lecture series in the evenings. the lecture series being a place where the flashers show us the work that they have carried out in other cities- sapped of all political intent, inspired by situationist strategies, flailing attempts at reistance in a climate that treats them as mild diversions. all very fine unless they become so unconscious of their own positions that they end up being offensively romantic about squalor and poverty in the most old fashioned orientalist way.

Monday, January 02, 2006

bombay times photograph

i am so embarassed. my photograph on page two of the 'bombay times'. that too for attending a freshers return party in juhu. tapan from the first years called the media in- and they actually came - and clicked - and published! i cannot believe that they actually cover almost anything. ridiculous. and funny. my first real entertainment of the new year.

tabrez's wedding

on new years day, after a long sleep getting over the nights partying- tabrez’s wedding at kurla. a classic coincidence- its taking place directly opposite my fathers office’s window at the far end of the playground of the don bosco institute of technology. ranjit, vijaymala aunty, mom, dad and me sat in his room from where we could see the silver lined red thrones until tabrez arrived.
justice was served finally on to the guy who was always late for every appointment when his bride was delayed in a traffic jam at andheri. the poor thing finally arrived about an hour and a half late frazzled and very tense. tabs meanwhile sat on his designated throne with a fixed permanent smile on his face.
in spite of mine and ranjits feeble protestations the ladies of our group joined us in the mens side of the gathering, but we could not break decorum at mealtime. so we sat- dad, ranz and me on a table with a bunch of kids and ate juicy biryani and stew with bread from a common serving plate at the center. there is an interesting custom that i saw in all the muslim weddings that i have been to on tabrezs side. the serving table is covered with plastic sheets one on top of another and as each group of people finishes their meals, these are removed one by one. interesting.
tabrez we looking handsome as usual with his bread smile, and so were his adorable sisters sabina and samina wearing vaguely marathi looking saris and long gajras in their hair.
heres wishing tabrez and masha for their marraige..

Sunday, January 01, 2006

the end of the year

a happy new year to everybody. i hope you all had a great party. its been a fabulous way to end the year over the weekend. first a party at flavia’s- a chirstmas party delayed on a terrace at kalina. flavias family friends with their goan suits and dresses jiving away in between their kids along with her ngo activist friends hanging around at the fringes and then burning up the dance floor. i skipped the annual college party at alibaug this year, the reasons being that mukul couldn’t come because he had to leave today for delhi,and tabrez is getting married today. it would have been too much to go there and come back. instead what started out as a small intimate gathering at mukuls apartment overlooking the western express highway became one huge rocker with 24 people finally turning up- the crowd being largely mukuls filmmaker friends and their friends. madhushree looking gorgeous; reena mohan and her adorable husband to be nirmal; setu and kavita; saurabh and namrata; george, surabhi and sanaa; antoine and rachel; three recent graduates from ftii- whose names i don’t remember right now; vinay; ajay and sharda; mukul, ranjit, sonal and me. i think i embarrassed myself completely doing my performer number- when madhu calls me her item boy or her bar dancer boy- i think she may be actually pretty close. god, i enjoy dancing. ‘kajra re’ was expectedly the hit of the party- an dit tore my pants the second time. twice it was played and twice there were people swinging it on the floor. ranjit made some gorgeous drinks- one with red rum and chocolate and another with red rum, white wine and sprite. lovely. we had borrowed the fireworks of the northern suburbs for ourselves from the window at midnight, and in the morning we watched the morning light stream in as we woke up in the new year listening to bach, lata, and bhupinder: dil dhoondta hai phir wahi fursat ke raat din.

a happy new year again to all. and love.