Tuesday, May 30, 2006

the da vinci code

a day around town yesterday. mukul, mayuri, amit and me drove all over south mumbai (navy nagar, colaba) and then got lost on our way to wadala to watch ‘the da vinci code’ at the dome imax there with nishesh, tejas and shweta . nothing much but a bestseller into a blockbuster. over hyped and plodding- but watchable for the pseudo intellectual code breaking and the implausible storyline. tom hanks puts on his ‘i am concentrating’ expression throughout and the amelie girl makes approporiate faces as the chase sequence goes on.. and on.. and on.. and on..

Sunday, May 28, 2006


tanay.. or digvijay is the name decided for rahul and sushamas adorable son. today there was a function presided over by dharmu mama and usha maushi at powai. raj was there with his wife, neena and yogesh, gulshan and husaina, venkatesh uncle and prabha aunty, the three aajis, meghana, anand, hemant mama and madhavi mami- and many more people.

the kid is very quiet and chilled out. did not even squeal once while we were there. we gave him a dangling mobile of colored fish that i bought at cac. the guy who packed it had the entire thing entangled and we spent all of yesterday evening putting it together again.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

battleship potemkin

since i don’t really understand the finer nuances of film editing and the theory of ‘montage’ that seems to be on every review that i read of battleship potemkin, i shall instead say that in spite of the fact that i kept unfortunately trying to ‘analyse’ the film frame by frame (as it seems roger ebert did) i still could not help being carried away by the kinetic pace of the action sequences and the stunning images that flash in quick succession- the disjointed frames, the close ups, a sudden detail.. the narrative it seems is based on a real life mutiny in 1905 but seems simplified for propaganda purposes. all the characters are types and play their part in this mythological drama. i believed in this story. this is after all not a movie aiming for truth but for maximum emotional impact. the odessa steps sequence that everyone seems to talk about is actually as great as it is made out to be. so are many others. to be honest i could not escape thinking about the silly semiotic 'readings' of the film that seem to be all over any postmodern analysis of the film. reading homoeroticism and other such psychobabble about repression and signs in the cannons rising slowly, the boys in the hammocks, the maggots.. its a curse.

hyper city hyper mall

it is only the first few weeks for the new traffic hazard on link road- the bright and shiny all prefab shell of hyper city mall. in it you find prefab people selling prefab products. it’s a spectacular warehouse- reams of tubelights and ac ducts overhead, a floor that slips under your feet, shelves and shelves stacked with stuff that’s fab on the surface and tinny when tapped - the vegetables basking in yellow light on the ground floor as much as the lowest grade dvd player combos on the mezzanine overlooking the gigantic windows through which the new landscape of malad west is framed. high rise housing and squat glass clad call centers.

we floated through the shelves at hyper city yesterday and like the good consumers we were meant to be bought stuff that we were convinced of needing. samira’s brio cafĂ© is tackier in this space. it’s at the entrance square of this gigantic city. you can sit inside its low wall and snack on italian starters and coffee staring at the other shoppers passing by ; or if you like you can browse yet another selection of bestsellers at the crossword book shop in house.

everything is lubricated and in motion- its conveyer belt architecture. once you get on it, it is hard to get off unless you are willing to fall- or run backwards real hard.

x- men 3 . fanaa

there is no way an x – men movie can go wrong. this time a few new characters beast , juggernaut and angel, while most of the earlier characters are either killed off in the plot line or are disappeared (where was nghtcrawer?) mystique is as sexy as ever and when jean grey becomes the phoenix, famke jannsen finally gets to be as hot as she is supposed to be.

like the other x-men films its not only a good guy bashing up the bad guy film. as a cure is found for a so-called deformation or illness called the mutant gene, the mutant word is divided into those who want the cure to ‘fit in’ to society and those who oppose the idea that mutantness is a disease at all. it is a mutant – leech- who has these power sucking powers. magneto is for violence and xavier for diplomacy. the love stories- the wolverine/phoenix; ice-man/rogue also turn up now and then.

it is a very dark end to the series- there does not seem to be any way to revive the franchise as most of the major characters have either been killed off or have lost their powers. that is too bad.

since it was politically appropriate for me to see it- to protest against its ban in gujarat- i had to see fanaa. i was ruing the decision half way through the film when the first half crawled to almost a halt with close to eve teasing man handling by aamir of kajol the blind woman who loves him. they keep darting off shayari to one another in front of delhi monument lit in winter light (morning or evening). very pretty and very boring. then suddenly in the second half a james bond movie begins only to peter out into another family drama with a song about tongue twisters. at the end of the film, it all comes together though- as soon as kajol realizes who aamir really is. its mostly of kajol that i could sit thorough the film. she is as beautiful as ever.

the music is mediocre to bad except for chand sifarish; an the movie often looks too blandly pretty to be effective.

Friday, May 26, 2006

collapse in the inner city

high drama in the inner city.
a collapsed building.
half eaten rcc slabs, rusted metal walls and corrugated sheeting rising 5 storeys suddenly in the middle of the narrow streets.

two restaurants

the glittering hall of mirrors interior of 'kings' - a nice old muslim owned restaurant on lamington road

a very inappropriately named gujju udupi in borivili on s v road

Thursday, May 25, 2006

meetings and trains

after bangalore, i was complaining like hell about the traffic in bombay, cursing aloud at the fact that it takes me sometimes two hours to get from andheri to borivili. today instead on the way to town i took the train to a meeting at the all india institute of local self gov. where in a presentation i was shown fascinating figures and maps tracing motion of all sorts in the city. train densities, walk routes, number of bus rides, job locations. 20 million is the population right now. 47% of it is slums. only 10% of the developable land in the city is vacant. and in a crowded train there are 16 people per sq mt of floor space! 16? its madness.

on the way back the train was quite bearable in spite of the fact that i caught a 6.15 fast. i could stand quite peacefully in my little corner and read my john lecarre, without having to look above someone elses shoulder. in fact everyone was quite accommodating. thanks to them i am quarter of my way through ‘absolute friends’.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

bangalore photos

a new building rising inside an old near jayashrees house


the house with the great chairs

alo and ashwin

the spire of the mallya building

after brunch at koshys..

jayashree in her beautiful house

sanjay suri and the hiv positive workers singing


vidur and ayesha. vidur has these beautiful photographs of china

shibani in her huge new house at c v raman nagar

coorg photos


govind the driver

dubare and the cauvery

swimming in the cauvery

walking in the forest

playing with elephants

poster at madikeri

our company in madikeri - stray dogs and a tamil film star comedian whose car said- 'laugh and clap'.. hmm

abby falls- madikeri

nisargadham and the rope bridge


at abby falls

kagyupa monastery- buddhas under construction

kagyupa- buddhas under construction

kagyupa- windmills

kagyupa monastery interior

namdroling monastery - bylakupe - the three buddhas

namdroling monastery - bylakupe - on the walls

namdroling monastery - bylakupe



namdroling - surface decoration- curtain walls meet plaster of paris

cranes at bird sanctuary

bangalore - coorg

back from bangalore and coorg last night. views of the city were spectacular between the clouds, made even more beautiful by the fact that it was home. 7 days is a long time away from bombay, which in spite of the mad traffic and crowded streets i do love.

it is strange just how in my head comparisons with mumbai keep popping up whenever i am in another city. is it just me, or does everyone suffer with the same ridiculous affliction?

bangalore is still quite beautiful, in spite of all the complaints we heard from the older residents about it going literally to the dogs over the past few years. granted, the traffic jam on the mysore road on the way back from coorg was much worse than even the mahim bottleneck- but the rest of the city was all right- it seemed. it does seem like its getting worse though. streets that i remember from my earlier long trip there (the srishti workshop a few years back does not count) that used to be in sleepy little residential neighbourhoods now have gigantic malls on them. and like most of the development driven by the new economy is not supported by any infrastructure at all.

there seemed to be two quite distinct bangalores. one the world of info tech and ngos and the other the older traditional neighbourhoods. they hardly seem to meet. flyovers and ring roads avoid any real contact with the older streets where we spied older markets and narrow streets much like our own null bazaar and bhuleshwar as we zomed above avoiding the traffic jams on our way to coorg. jayashree and madan (whom we lived with in a beautiful flat in richards town) say that the tension in between the two cities is what led to the flare up when young men vandalized glass buildings in the new city after raj kumar film star and icon died. it probably is so.

after all, all of the new bangalore is full of references to an imagined american dream. ‘melrose place’, ‘whitefields’ are names of the new places instead of the yelahankkas of old. bangalore is a rare example of a city that largely did not change the names of the streets after indfependence and i think that the same fascination for all things white might still be continuing. it does in a lot of the new cities though bangalore seemed the most western wannabe then most other places. symptomatic is mallyas ridiculous vulgar nouveau riche landmark on cubbon park. an empire state building replica aided by hafeez from mumbai. yuppyland. and the older city has been disappeared.

it must have been the people we met and lived with but we learnt a lot of the intricacies of small town politics in the ngo world which seems to have set up base in the city. it must be the weather and the gardens but bangalore is the base of so many internationally funded ngos working in almost every field imaginable. i was told by one person that this was true a few years back but then they all moved to delhi to be close to the centers of power and came rushing back when all the money for hiv-aids poured into the country and it was realized that south india had a lot of these cases. the world of ngos seemed opportunistic, fake and vicious. a small turf with too many people eyeing the same money. the stories i learnt about the incestuous interlinks between money and so called do gooder ngos was more than i could take.

koshy’s it would seem is the center of this world. we went there twice - the first for beer in the evenings and the second over a large sunday breakfast as alo and ashwin met their friends who were leaving for paris. it’s a place that is teeming with conversations about science, art, funding and gossip of all sorts. the center as it were of the bangalore i seem to know. the sunmica tables, the really low lighting, the good food- like i was telling mukul- it seems like the perfect set for the great novel waiting to be written- on the machinations of ngo politics and the chasm that separates it from the real world.

the aids film festival that we went to where jayashrees film on the accessibility and affordability of aids drugs was being screened was symptomatic of the problem. aids as i mentioned earlier is the big hot fund generator for many of the ngos nowadays. an offshoot of an international funding agency to display its social concern and to make sure its report looked good at the end of the year decided to organize a film festival showing films on aids. not that bad an idea, one would have thought except that they hired another ngo to ‘curate’ the festival. the choices that they made- at a huge price i am sure, were the most default choices imaginable. my brother nikhil, philadelhia, phir milenge. over and above that it was attended only be members of the two ngos concerned. what was the point of it all i wonder. chief guests were film stars who take roles in films with a ‘heart’ and even they seemed to be annoyed by the incestuousness of it all. ineffective completely and a humongous waste of money. the screening was also very badly managed. organizers walking in front of the screen, sound being rotten. it was a fiasco. but the report card i am sure looks good. i think i now trust non governmental organizations even less- and bangalore is teeming with these hypocritical corporate money spinners.

coorg is beautiful. we drove there in a hired cab and kept the car for the three days that we were there. madikeri town sits like a postcard town in the middle of rolling green hills. we spent two nights in the area- the first in a cottage on a coffee plantation and the second on the banks of the cauvery. we drove to talacauvery- the source of the river, abbi falls- an overrated waterfall but a beautiful walk down, nisargadham- where we paddle boated below the rope bridge and dubare with the elephant camp and where we swam in the cauvery. bylakupe was the strangest stop. a tibetan settlement in the middle of karnatake. a surreal experience. momos and pork chilly; maroon clad monks on motorcycles. the golden temple monastery is the main shrine. the buddhas in the main temple were huge and the gruesome paintings fascinating. the smaller monastery kagyupa was where we saw idols being made under a windmill with flags fluttering wild in the wind. the weather was gorgeous throughout – cloudy and overcast. photos later.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

mira bhayander - long angry post

the northern edge of the city. vasai on the other side and mira bhayander on the left.

nouveau riche rcc bunglaows near the villages of west bhayander

the city tour series continues with today’s crazy day in mira bhayander. as some of you might know we are looking at this area to the north of the city just outside the mumbai municipal limits as a site for our fourth year design project for the next year. in a previous post i had mentioned corporator mr mhatre and his stories about the corruption and development in the area. today we actually saw first hand the devastation that this is causing to the lives of ordinary people caught up in the middle of all this.

ninad, me and rupali waited in the morning for an hour at bhayander chowpatty for mr mhatre who did not turn up till the afternoon. instead we decided to carry out our scouting on our own starting off with a ride to rai village to the west of the bhayander railway station. this is an agricultural settlement with salt pans on all sides; an old water tank and a temple. we walked down the main street of the village. it was water supply time and women and men were all out on the street with their plastic buckets and metal pots collecting water for the rest of the day. the street was being washed. women watched bemused as we asked them about their wadas- and were told that they are not wadas- but their houses.

the tanks and the temple at rai

the main street of rai

the panchayat at rai and the event

building at rai

on another street i can still see the twisting waist of the bare chested man dancing to the koli music blaring out of the loudspeaker at a panchayat function.

further down the main road leading to esselworld on which bombay holidayers drove in large four wheel drives we found uttan and pali fishing villages. past the bus stop and the streets lined with drying fish; and the pali beach resort with its swimming pool and we climbed a hill to spectacular views across the bassien creek and of the arabian sea.

it was late morning by then and koli men with powerful strides were returning home carrying the paraphernalia of a fishing trip -including huge gas cylinders that were tossed over their shoulders casually.

there was some unknown function begin celebrated everywhere and we saw beer can chandeliers across roads and pink durbars at street corners along the main road.


pali looking at vasai and the arabian sea

fishing boat with sharks

heads painted on cocunut shells at a temporary screening room on the main road- pali

beer can chandelier on the main road - pali

on the way to meet paul at bhayander railway station west we had to go through the horrific gorge of a road that led to it. this cavern is lined for a distance of over 3 kilometers by four to five storyered appallingly decrepit rcc frame structures with absolutely no space in between them. the drive through this street and imagining living there was nightmarish. we picked paul up and then drove further into the concrete jungle of the area.

its like a dystopic vision of a future city has come to life here. the rooms are tiny and the structures are in terrible condition. it seems like nobody gives a shit about the way that people live. buildings overlook dumping grounds stinking with sewage and carcasses, roads do not connect to anything, one cannot even begin to ask about public amenities. the city met the hinterland too fast and destroyed it all.

to think that rai was what this now is. this is the violence that development creates.

the road in hell

bhyander railway station

water body / sewage disposal/ dumping ground and housing

creek / sewage disposal / dumping round and housing

i was almost glad to get out of there and drive to mira road where the late 90s and 2000s development were sitting on crz (coastal regulation zone) land- blatantly flouting laws. prettified exteriors and facades concealing a rotten interior.

when mhatre joined us later in the day we were taken behind these exteriors and shown the way the plots are built on mangroves and how the natural drainage lines were being blocked, covered and sold off as real estate. the buildings built on this land were now sinking. cracks appeared in all the foundations. still people lived in their cells pretending that nothing could happen to them.

have been working for the interior of a developer firm for the past few days and they proclaim all this eyewash about ‘quality products’ and fancy finishes. the interior is all glass floor and acrylic boxes. i found their board on land that was so blatantly being invented out of mangrove land. rapacious and merciless. i was embarrassed that i was working for them. embarrassed and ashamed.

this is the crisis of architecture. kapil can cry himself hoarse about critique through alignment- who in the world does he think he is fooling? architects are merely tools in the hands of big business and cant do anything about it. carpenters- kausik says and he is right. architects have no business pretending to have morality in a city where they sign drawings and approvals that don’t meet with the basic standards of dignified human living.

houses and high tension wires cheek by jowl
hoardings at mira road station advertising paradise

pretty facades

natural storm water drains being narrowed, covered and sold

cracks in the foundation- a building on its way down

last stop on the long drive was ghodbunder after a trip to the main highway. ghodbumder is a fort on the northern edge of the area. we walked to the top of the fort and saw the bungalow where ‘don’ was shot; across to the vasai fort and the landscape of salt pans, prawn farming that is soon going to be gone.

ghodbunder village

ghodbunder fort

crematorium - ghodbunder

view towards bhayander from ghodbunder

today we went to mhatres workshop for lunch. i must say that there is a lot to admire in the man. he is a carpenter by profession and this little place opposite the railway station is where he carries out his business. he is full of himself and full of stories, but seems to be dedicated to what he has decided to do. today i began to i appreciate the pride he had for the scars on his body that he had displayed last time we met.

rupali and mhatre in his office