Friday, March 31, 2006

amits birthday party at kashid

i am home early today. i think the past two days were actually too much for me- amits wonderful birthday party at kashid.a small group – anushree, tejas, mayuri and me.. drove in my car to kashid beach resort. lovely rooms, split level, lawn to the rear with views of the ocean.. “spanish” style- which meant arches and white walls. the other place ‘prakruti’ was just too nouveau riche. the drive was uneventful enough except for the repairing of a tire and the constant sufi and bryan adams being played by tejas dear. a small dancing party that went on till the middle of the night when it was decided to go down to the beach. a new moons night is completely dark and i resisted the bonfire that amit wanted to make. instead we sang hindi film songs. the waves were beautiful in the morning when we went for a swim. it is beautiful this beach and the view of the stretch from the road on the way back was stunning. i got all sentimental thinking about the fact that this was probably one of the last birthday parties of ak that i will be a part of. a stopover at alibaug to see samiras strange mariwala house and vandanas house- so different from each other- one overwrought and the other humble.another puncture after i dropped the kids off at the andheri flyover, and i woke tonight with a body ache and a fever. still sat through some of the second years building analysis project- the “analysis” i did not get, but the buildings were nice. don’t know about the project itself.tomorrow is third year design jury and i am nervous for the kids. hopefully it will all turn out all right.

the 'spanish style' rooms

amit and mayuri


mayuri and the split level room

at the alibaug house

Sunday, March 26, 2006

weekend event roundup

i guess the first event on the list will be the udri lecture by leslie pollack in the school at 6.30. really too late and off the event calendar of the city to expect a large crowd. had to herd some students in to save face- though i still don’t know why i tried since it was not the school that was organizing the event.

drove with mukul and ranjit afterwards all the way to madh for saurabhs party. fantastic fun it turned out to be. prajna and ateya made us strange cocktails, the music was all right, but the dancing terrific. everyone was very high very quickly and enjoying themselves completely. we were embarrassed to death with all the hoopla around our leaving early. completely flattered but also felt completely guilty. these guys have learnt the fine art of emotional blackmail perfectly.

i had to get back because the next day we had another event in the school. one of my professors from lsr had arranged it such that one of his friends from the states was giving a lecture in the school. it turned out to be a jj reunion. not the best work i had seen- to be generous to the man.

showed mukuls film to a few of the 'tracing urbanism' group yesterday before the meeting at 6.30 in the evening. the discussions were complicated, confusing and long. i am sure all of us completely misunderstood each other- or maybe we understood and disagreed with each other completely.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

hearing again

my aunt vasudha from pune who had lost her entire hearing around 20 years back finally got to hear again yesterday after an operation in mumbai that reconnected some nerves in her brain to the eardrums.

its amazing. i wonder what these electronic sounds sound like. is her daughters voice the same as it is to me?

one of the real benefits of modern medicine.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

few photos from the past few days

on sv road at malad, a hair weaving saloon, with pierce brosnan generously agreeing to appear bald for promotion.

stained glass shop at lokhandwala- who in the world designs these?

strange reflection- look like madonna in the bedtime stories video.

dad at ruby tuesday beofre we saw 'syriana' together.

bandra worli sea link and the garden at its base. three directions of gazing- one outwards towards the worli skyline- the lovers; the other along the winding pathways- the joggers.. and from the road downwards - the voyeurs (me)

the iia cocktails and dinner post correa felicitation- my old teachers, some current friends, many unknown drunks, some famous names- at the banquet hall at rang sharda. the carpet has seen many spilled drinks and kabab stains.

kausha sweetheart is back from london for 10 days and was in college yesterday looking as lovely as ever. she rushes back on sunday- too bad. this was at cac after a mocha with kausik.

new party. new posters

there is something ominous about the new raj thakrey party posters all over the city. they are masterpieces of visual propaganda. while his cousin and rival uddhav stares benignly out of the saffron shiv sena posters, raj, on the other hand, is seen in a sea of devotees wearing reflective sunglasses. his flag is the obligatory saffron, a dash of deep blue and another line of green. he is not smiling in any of the posters. the sea of people reflects and distorts in his eyes like a fire. he looks ambitious, powerful and ruthless.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

sunday - grand ecole / afternoon nap / badminton court

talk about a lazy sunday – woke up late, saw a movie on my laptop sitting on my bed wearing the headphones that mukul gave me. ‘grand ecole’ – forgettable french interracial, intersexual bedroom romp that wants to be a serious look into class and sexuality in high society france (characters quote foucault constantly). silly love pentagon with lots of good looking people. then i slept. afternoon naps are the most amazing things.
by evening time i surfed endlessly looking up more fluff on the net. art photography, steven holl, music reviews..
and finally went downstairs for the rejuvenation of the badminton court. john, shyam, deepa and alex with shriya running around, pushing the shuttle lazily from one court to the other side under the newly installed tube lights. it is the first day and we are trying to keep it running for at least a week. lets see how it turns out.

correa at rang sharda

the other day we were all at rang sharda auditorium in bandra where he was being felicitated for being awarded the padma vibhushan as it was the forum where prajna was finally being given her gold medal. she, prasad, prasad, rupali, saurabh, namrata, aditya, benita, kalpit, mayuri, neha, nikita, and more from the krvia contingent sat in the audience. the event was organized by the iia and sponsored by companies selling pipes who insisted on a presentation of their work as the finale of the event. it was embarrassing this complete submission to the market by the architectural community. since we have sources in correas office nowadays we knew that charles was extremely pissed at having his lecture being upstaged by marketing nerds.

i live in a charles correa building. lic colony is a series of string like buildings laid in rows on a hill. my house is on the first floor with a terrace facing a slope on which gulmohar and other trees grow wild. my mother and father cant stop appreciating correas tenet for good architecture in india - ‘the blessings of the sky’. it’s a kind of living in the city that has been part of me all my life- where the line between inside and outside is blurred constantly. i remember there used to be pathways that climbed the hills connecting the various levels where we could walk through. as days have gone by each building has become more and more security conscious and has made high compound walls around them breaking these connections. many people have gone about enclosing the terraces because the space inside the house is too tiny- and in many cases it actually is. anyways, to cut a long story short – correas very particular approach to space has been an integral part of the way i see architecture- consciously and sub-consciously.

at his lecture at the event he scanned through some of his early work (the elegant gandhi museum in ahmedabad, kanchanjunga- my favorite high rise anywhere in the world) before showing us his recent building in the mit campus and the mill lands work. i liked the mit building tremendously. its bulky and rather unwieldy- but was able to adjust itself to a complex program and site very easily. the mill lands work was (as it has been proved recently with the recent ruling) almost impossibly romantic. in his lecture he admitted to its defeat, but insisted that it was important to continue the process of imagining alternatives of resistance. this naïve idealism and belief in the power of architectural thought reminded me of the way in which we used to look at architecture when i was in school- before the cynicism took over. this wide eyed belief, i think, is sometimes necessary. kalpit spoke to aditya, saurabh and me about how it was affecting him. it was great to see that kind of utopianism exist and inspire him.

after the lecture at the free dinner and drinks we saw all of the architects present obsequiously adore him with flowers and rush madly to the free drinks counter.

a history of violence

an overrated but fairly watchable action film. its been raved about as a portrait of americans obsession with violence and as a post 9/11, post iraq war critique of american policy; but any real connection between the film and its purported politics was far fetched. to compare perhaps another film trying the same thing – there is a huge difference of a mob man who finds a new life in suburbia; only to be discovered later by them; and the suburbia of the sensationalistic ‘bowling for columbine’ where michael moore revels in the images of violence the pervade the everyday lives of american citizens. all right though, great action sequences and acting. terrific and tense in the first half before his real identity is revealed; and after that a run of the mill but well made action film.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

bnrc, maps and the history of a garden

i live where the black dot is. the green patch to its north and west is the 10-12 acre green space of the mcgm playground

after ages it seems, there was a bnrc strategy meeting at my place. the only time that these meeting happen nowadays is on holidays when everyone has the time to meet and discuss the days of yore.

the bnrc garden near my house is a great subject for protracted discussions regarding what lic had promised to give us- a clubhouse, swimming pool, etc- and never did. instead it was the bnrc - the bima nagar recreation club (with my mother and other neighbours as active participants and contributors)- who managed to convert the unruly overgrown landscape in between the thousands of mango trees into a flat plain first and then a badminton court- a 25 year history.

much of my childhood memories are about this piece of land. hooting and jeering during the annual badminton tournaments where my mother and john played as partners in the mixed doubles; or the underarm cricket in the evenings where i was always so pathetic. then there was the childrens drawing competition where i never won anything because (so i was made to believe- if i won it would stink of nepotism- as my mother was always part of the organiasing set).

in another world that seems so far away, there were the end of the year celebrations with the building march pasts, the sports days where i ran barefoot on terrible roads, and in the evenings acted terribly in john and shyam directed masterpieces parodying the ramayan or the mahabhrat (it was before the days of rabid hindutva), or where mrs dalaya did her peacock dance in a tight sea green peacock outfit adding to my list of recurring nightmares that persist upto this day.

that was before the municipal corporation decided to make it an official ‘garden’. they ripped apart the court and since most of us had gotten older we did not find the energy to resist. the obligatory pathways and stone benches in the memory of the late something or the other lined the yellow and green railing. mr unni from across the garden decided to “maintain” part of it and installed a fountain, a lawn and pretty flowering bushes. the old well was filled in with debris for fear of kids falling in. the bnrc took over another part and put in a children’s play area with slides and swings. the two of us faced each other in a turf war about control of the land. while the bnrc was for all access for lovers who could lurk in the dark corners under trees, for preteens to scream loud and run wild and teenagers to play bare-chested football in the only clearing in the area; mr unni represented the desires of the middle aged to sit on benches and watch trees grow. each despised the other but tolerated them as necessary evils.

todays meeting was to decide the fate of the garden under the municipal corporation inititative where local bodies are allowed to adopt and maintain recreational grounds. we are to bid for control. the ambitions are right now sky high and it’s all rather scary in its implications. but because of that today i finally took a close look at the development plan of the area.

its amazing how one drawing represents both the past, the present and the future. under lines of existing roads of the charles correa plan with its cul de sacs and its corner market, there lies a substructure of circular roads, going round in circles around the old hill. these roads have all but vanished today- though some of the fragments of what they served still exist like the lines of two storied bungalows for bangladeshi immigrants and the so-named “dukkar galli” or “pig alley” near my house. also lesters house from where we used to get fresh bread in the mornings, the mango merchant where we buy fresh mangoes every year, and even the bhaiiya paperwallah from whom we used to hire bicycles in the summer for rides to a still underdeveloped landscape are there. these plots can clearly be seen in the drawing.

who designed this perfect circle- i have no idea. what is the history of the place? i suspect it had something to do with the nearby remains of the portuguese church over the mandapeshwar caves.

the proposed rg of today’s discussions does not care about these patterns. it sits flat across all these lines eating into bungalows, contours, houses weirdly and awkwardly. it is this mess of ownerships that i think has kept the area relatively safe from development. it might not be safe for long.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

brokeback mountain

in spite of all the hype surrounding ‘brokeback mountain’, and in spite of the fact that through the film, i kept wondering whether it was indeed as powerful as everyone who had seen it had made it out to seem, i fell hard for the lonely heartbreak of the love between jack twist and ennis del mar that creeped to the surface through the films stranglehold on any overt emotional displays. there is an aesthetic to this repression- a deep sorrow that permeates every single frame of the film but does not hit you till the film is finally over when you cant stop crying at all the love left unfulfilled.

ang lee seems to be an expert at this kind of emotional landscape- after the frigid new england ‘ice storm’ and the repressed dark memories of ‘the hulk’, we have ennis del mars’ tight jaw line and sideways glance and jack twists’ desperate longing, while their families watch their turmoil from the sidelines. its in a world of rodeos and farmlands that a story of forbidden love is told. some of the most moving sequences are those where we watch their relationships with their familes- mothers, wives and daughters disintegrate and transform. the wyoming landscapes of the fishing trips are predictably gorgeous, but even the small towns and rural landscapes unromantically and sympathetically portrayed. these are real people of a class rarely seen on film.

very heartbreaking- and believe the hype- highly recommended.


dad and me saw syriana yesterday at inorbit. it was our boys’ night out, since my mother is n delhi for a concert. i knew that my father would like the film- and he did as he said repeatedly over the expensive food and drinks at ‘ruby tuesday’. i liked the fact that the movie did not try and make the complicated network of forces affected and affecting the international oil industry simple. it kept the various threads that link pakistani workers, washington lawyers, cia operatives, texan oil companies, middle eastern monarchs, chinese business and american energy analysts - alive and real. thankfully, there was no hollywood simplification or moralizing to reduce the movie into a series of clichés- though the clichés were there to be mined. the lawyer who betrays his mentor, the cia operative who braves torture with a straight face, the pakistani worker who is indoctrinated into terrorism. still, none of them felt terribly patronizing. it must be the extremely complex plot and the understated acting.

it must be because i saw it with my father, but to me there seemed to be a sub-plot about the “human” side of the story. all the strands had important parts that hinged on father-son relationships- like the succession duel between the two princes of the middle eastern state, the pakistani worker and his frustration with his father, matt damon losing his son and gaining a contract in return, or the washington lawyers’ drunk father who waits for him at his doorstep after he gets back from the ultimate betrayal.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

john and jane

in ‘john and jane’, ashim’s film about call centers in mumbai at the ncpa little theater yesterday, a screening that haunted my entire night. stories of young people living in artifical light, a world neither here nor there- an artificial construct that bends their minds into imagining artificial desires and wants. it controls not only their time but also their space- and their minds. a necessary indoctrination into the american dream to be a good employee in a new form of imperialism- but one that seems more insidious.

and all this through comparisons of the paucity of choices with regards to potato chips in indian markets compared to the variety in an american mall; or through the incessant rehearsal of the ‘american values’- “pursuit of happiness”, “individualism”, “freedom”… as images of john f kennedy, las vegas casinos, shopping malls, bloomingdales shopping catalogues (have you ever seen towels like these?”) are bombarded at you- and you don a new name ‘nikki cooper’, ‘naomi’- namrata is not good enough.

the disconnection is also orchestrated architecturally in muteness. no window is allowed to look out at the city- making an emptiness of everything but the ones that assist in aiding the illusion. the spaces in between the work floors buzzing with american accents are hollow ceramic tiled halls that are cleaned by sweepers at regular intervals, white fluorescent light reflecting of polished surfaces and a ghostly silence.

the desperate loneliness was unbearable. there was sydney who lived in a slum, wanted to be dancer but now sold something called ‘emergency’ medical insurance to irate americans; glen who bitched about all the people he spoke to as he smoked a joint with his friend at a beer joint; nikki who found herself in her new persona and the spirituality of born again new age group worship; oaref who believed escape was possible from his dreary apartment to a spanish villa on a motorcycle if he was able to believe in the capitalist ideal really hard; the couple who got married after falling in love at a call center and now only spend time together in the surreal spaces of hiranandani powai in between shifts; and then there was naomi the cyborg of the new age- whose blonde hair, she believed made her more special. the indoctrination there was complete.

it was scary watching the film - the schisms and the mutations that we are going through-a mad rush hurtling towards a hollowness that seems out of control, where history and identity are erased and reconstructed leaving nothing behind but a shrill scream urging us to buy, buy, buy.

At the party at busaba, where glen and Sydney were also there, it was good to see that there was life after that form of death.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

sudden rain and movie soundtracks

the sunset was spectacular yesterday – an early version of a late summer sky- just before the first rain. a field of white clouds in a crisp blue sky before the sun went down in a blaze of roange and purple.

today morning we drove through an untimely rain and watch another blistering sky in the east listening to soundtracks form movies – lonely heartbreak from ‘brokeback mountain’ and the turbulence of ‘master and commander’.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


from kuntals old bombay central apartment

mixed doubles

again proving to myself that i have no sense of humor was ‘mixed doubles’- in which a bored ranvir sheorey emotionally blackmails his wife konkana sen sharma into one night of a swinging time with rajat kapoor and his mad spirit seeing wife koel purie.

needless to say, he embarrasses himself and us in the entire process without being very funny or even very tragic. just made us all feel queasy. konkana sens sharma was the only person in the film i could relate to – and she is treated like dirt and has no chance at retribution at the end.

and its not even as if the film is well scripted or shot. the acting by the lead pair is good though. still why am i supposed to like the film? can somebody help me?

definitely not my idea of a good time.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

photos - inorbit, john, shahpur


shahpur - boxes on the street

shahpur - to get to the other side (of bird flu?)

self portrait at inorbit

inborbit - her sole mate

inorbit - somebody has a sense of humour

johnny and joanna

strange building at ic

saturday wrap up / shahpur - oh calcutta - purple haze

another saturday morning at shahpur- this time with ganesh, his brother and friend from bangalore. the stories were thoroughly enjoyable- about eccentric scientists and god men, faith and science. we drew the first stage of the school on the site in between a row of trees and tried to teach the local site fixer how to make a random rubble wall for the water harvesting tank under construction.

in the evening we ate amazing food at ‘oh calcutta’ in andheri with ranjit, sonal, mukul, rikhav and jayashree. by far the most exotic and strangest dish i have eaten there so far must be the prawns with crab meant, mustard and lots of palak.

mayuri, amit and anushree joined us at ‘purple haze’ in bandra where a small room is made to feel enormous through huge mirrors and lights in strips from floor to double heighted ceiling. there are ridiculous yellow paper flowers stuck o the wall and the music thankfully is bollywood- which is much more bearable than the rave throbs that irritate the hell out of me. for some reason i can’t relate to bleeps and plinks.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

'walk the line'

it must be because i saw ‘ray’ just last week; but all through ‘walk the line’ at sterling with bahaar (with awful projection) i could not help being overcome with a sense of déjà vu.

rock star bio-epic clichés abound. a rural boy from a dysfunctional family loses a brother; is racked with guilt all his life; leaves home for the big city where he pursues his dream to make it big; he makes it big; falls in love; gets married; has an unhappy marriage; starts sleeping around and popping pills (or shooting heroin in the case of 'ray'); has a few ups and downs in his career- and is finally saved by the love of a good woman- in rays' case the memory of his dear departed mother; and in johnny cashs' reese witherspoons’ june carter.

unfortunately for me, i have never really liked cashs earlier recordings- i much prefer the dark mangled sounds of his 90s recordings; so the music was also ordinary. to make the romance between the two is a good move - and though jamie foxx’s ray charles impersonation was ridiculously perfect; phoenix and witherspoon are at least likeable looking. it makes you forgive, if not forget the fact that they are “performing”. they sang the songs themselves it seems. not bad.