Wednesday, August 29, 2007

pans labyrinth . archana . the houses at the end of time

as a girl has to perform three difficult tasks to prove to the faun that she is the rightful heir to the kingdom of the underground, her stepfather is mounting a brutal clamp down upon the rebels hidden in the woods surrounding the army camp. its rare to see a fantasy film that is able to explore the creepy side of fairy tales without cleaning it all up with an artificial sweetness. after all there is something strange about the world that they create. pans labyrinth was able to do this- and beautifully.

archana presented her work at the encounter yesterday. her arrange your marriage web site and objects along with her recent 'relics'. in both her clever appropriation of the tacky from the kitsch of everyday life seemed to me to be a self conscious pose that is a very particular privilege. Her awareness of this pose was simultaneously keeping the work afloat while also preventing it from doing more. or perhaps the issues that they touch upon – identity and purity - were far too distant from my own experience as a half tamilian, half marathi half breed who has no relationship at all with his reportedly illustrious fathers side and is instead closer to the largely liberal mothers side of the family.

and the results of the esquisse were out today. nikhar won with a delicate and precise book about the moment before death. apurva developed a project about finding time away from everyday time while vyoma in one of the many apocalyptic scenarios but with the best representation technique looked at the reconfiguration of the old into new formations. most of the other work however was either lazily conceived or lazily executed. the most embarrassing was the work of the fourth year. so much of it seems like first year doodles.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

happy birthday mukul. jamon jamon. juhu beach

mukul left for finland, spain and morocco today. he is gone for more than a month. his birthday is tomorrow and we had a small party at his place on sunday where he cut a cake.

‘jamon jamon’ was a terrific mad sex crazy film where penelope cruz is being wooed by a rich underwear manufacturers son and a good-for-nothing who works in a ham storage area and also moonlights as an underwear model. the film had lots of sex, crazy testicle jokes, nude bullfighting, shades of incest, and all kinds of other things that played with themes of class consciousness, machismo and our essentially animal nature. hilarious.

yesterday, mukul and me had some time to kill so we walked for a while on juhu beach watching the sunset and the lights of the food court make streaks on the wet sand.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

image post - the highway, truck paintings, kwanz, the marriot and a shop in santacruz

lamposts- old and new, the towers at goregaon in the rain

truck iconography

kwanz at thakur village. exotic south east asian food. sona, mukul, ranz, pankaj and me

the marriott . the coffee shop atrium and the ridiculous pissing fountains with the babylonian women in the porch

on the station road at santacruz east. an old hardware shop thats now a general stores still displays its wares in plaster relief.

some reasons for not writing. bye chitra. the houses at the end of time .

the weeks seem to go by at such a high speed that i have almost no idea what has happened by the end of the day. writing a post then seems to be completely pointless. and then there has been a self imposed ban that i have placed upon myself to be careful about what i say here, especially after my words seem to turn up on google searches too close to the top. they tend to have more importance in forming opinions than they should- or so i think. anyway, all of this has led to me becoming more wary of writing.

besides this, is of course the fact that i am supposed to write so many other things that i haven’t even begun. articles for some journals on mumbai and the work of the school. ideas are forming in my head about the uses of metaphor to understand the city and by the time i get down to a computer screen they vanish and i type and erase and type and erase. i am hoping for a flood of words someday. but that day better come soon. but i am giving myself too many excuses now. i must write now. even if it is only recording the places i have been to this week.

once to town with mukul for his visa. he leaves for norway, morocco and spain this tuesday. now he will have something to blog about. we had lunch at the exotic ming palace in colaba with parveen sultana and her husband behind us.

then there was an esquisse ( a short design exercise) planned for the whole college. from 5 in the evening on friday to 5 in the evening on saturday. “the houses at the end of time”. hopefully evocative enough a title for the students to explore some.

the supremely talented chitra left this week for johns hopkins at baltimore- a city where we used to spend time on the waterfronts having lunches and walks on the weekends. it was also a place where i did my first urban design studio. a proposal for the inner city reconstruction of the crime infested housing blocks of the 50s. only later when i had gotten over the haze of being in a new country did i understand the horrific gentrification and cleansing process that lay at the heart of the enterprise. bye chitra. and keep in touch.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

m.i.a. 'kala'

if there is a utopian soundscape for the future it does not lie in the blips and the buzzing of machines of a dystopic world cleansed of all conflict by mutual peace and understanding. think radiohead. instead it is this madness.

the displaced collide in a wonderful mish mash of textures and rhythm. clinging to reify vanishing identities in a complicated present, the primal forces of tribal drums seem to be the only constant for all of us to connect. from bollywood (bappi lahiri and ilayaraja), bhangra to hip-hop to the maddening throb of folk music from tamil nadu this is perfect dance music made by diasporic diva (sri lankan british lesbian) and recorded in india, london, africa. even when hotshot american hip hop producer timbaland might seem to get in the way by attempting to tame her she wrestles him to the ground and keeps him there. nothing can get in the way of her sloganeering the resistance to type of the immigrant experience from the third world; least of all corporate American which she embraces only to subvert.

also see Arular from 2005

saturday recap

considering my urge to record every event of every day, this long hiatus from th blog (all of 4 days!!!!) is unimaginable. but i must blame the mtnl connection for it. saturday is i think the longest of all the days since surabhis party. and a good day it was. started with the end of the first year workshops where in city of 2 billion mutant men are born, gadgets galore, and the city is so dense that there is no room left to manouvere- much like the lecture oom upstairs where the entire school gathered for a performace by the new kids.

after that neha, namrata, mayuri, lubaina and me drove to xic where the students of the journalism course had some kind fo encounter slot and we spoke about power, architecture and institutions. the making of the valid and invalid. the students were surprisingly reactionary for journalism students. we were all more than a little shocked at their completely uncritical approach. we had a late lunch at moshes and drove back to andheri for some time at the chai wallah.

paro had a party that night to celebrate the win of q2p at two film festivals. great company, fantastic alcohol and divine pork vindaloo.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

the reluctant fundamentalist . south of the border, west of the sun . the little sister

suddenly i cant stop reading novels. i am going through one a day (almost). the last three were ‘the reluctant fundamentalist’ by mohsin hamid. though fairly predictable in terms of plot- after all with a title like that and set up as an encounter between a bearded pakistani and a stocky american in lucknow- there is really no new direction it could have taken. still very readable. the haruki murakami novel ‘ south of the border , west of the sun’ was another first person narrative, this time in the voice of a japanese man who cant ever forget the love he felt for his childhood friend. but the wittiest of them all was what i just put down today. philip marlowe is the cynical classic 50s american private detective in raymond chandlers ‘the little sister’. his voice as the narrator of the noir novel complete with glamorous film stars and seedy gangsters set in a sunburnt and seamy los angeles crackles with quick one liners that i wish i could come up with in regular conversations.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

chak de india

oh, stop the cynicism all you who say it’s just another formulaic sports many times have you seen a film take on so much at the same time? a film trying to revive interest in a sport that’s dying at the hands of cricket, a film without a romantic angle ns random song and dance sequences thrown in for good measure, about girl power and sexism, where the actors look like they can actually play hockey and are not dolls wielding the sticks like they were lipsticks. i have not seen a film in recent times that has treated women with the kind of intelligence that this film has. i loved the girls, i loved shah rukh, i cheered at the end and even got tense when they missed the goals. everyone go watch. now! and those who don’t, you will have forever relinquished bemoaning bollywood for being predictable.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

dipti party . density workshop . the voices of time

dipti threw a party on her terrace yesterday night. it got us all a chance to say goodbye to ninad and ateya who leave for mit on monday and wednesday.

meanwhile in college the new first year is here with all of 8 boys in the class of girls. kausiks workshop around the theme of an apocalyptic future where the population of the city increases 20 fold is scaring some, exciting others.

speaking of fantastic futuristic scenarios, i just finished a bunch of short stories by j g ballard-‘the voices of time’. in the landscapes of a dystopian future time collapses and stretches in strange incredible ways. ‘the voices of time’ is what the collection is called. my favorite story besides the lead one is ‘the sound sweep’ where sound is imagined as absorbed into the walls and need to be cleaned like dirt. in every story though the cities and the architecture is described in such loving detail that it rises in front of you as you read. and it is an incredible vision.

Friday, August 10, 2007

three novels

suddenly i am reading novels again. it started off with haruki marakumis ‘sputnik sweetheart’. a young girl falls madly in love with an older woman. this ends up being an obsession that leads her to the far ends of the earth and finally completely takes over her. this was my first murakami novel and the poetry he is able to see in contemporary japan is amazing.

then there was michael cunninghams ‘specimen days’. three characters living is different times in new york are connected through walt whitmans ‘leaves of grass’. characters quote the poem and live its themes of continuity and perpetual continuity. in the first story a young man surrenders himself to the jaws of a machine to save the woman he loves; in the second a woman finds herself at the center of a series of killings involving young men blowing themselves up and in the third a humanoid finds a form of love with an alien in a future wasteland.

the third novel was john lecarre’s ‘the mission song’. the heroes of his novels are always torn between complicated loyalties that rents their world apart by the end of the book. in this one half african half british interpreter is in the middle of a corporate and british plot to exploit the natural resources of the congo through manipulating the democratic process prodded along by the british secret service. his disintegrating marriage to a journalist and his new love for a nurse and her idealism lead him down a path that could make him a hero. almost.

Thursday, August 09, 2007




the other day as i was driving munir to the bandra site from college i struck up a conversation with him. munir, by the way, is the carpenter i work with. he is all of 24 years old, comes from a village outside haldia in rural bengal. he came to the city when he was 16 and worked as an apprentice with his uncle for a while before striking out on his own. he lives with mustaq, his cousin. mustaq is 26 or so, married with kids. a hurried marriage when he was 18. though younger, munir is the boss. while he is all professional courtesy and easy presence; mustaq is strict, tough and dedicated. both of them are a pleasure to work with. they love their work and do not suffer from that terrible obsequiousness that other carpenters do. anyway, back to the conversation i had with munir.

so, munir had managed to get himself a kholi in a slum in bandra east near bandra kurla complex. while him and mustaq lived in one, he had also managed to rent one for his workers. one day a builder came along and offered an enormous sum of money for munirs flat. with the gigantic sum in his pockets he now could afford a 2 bedroom flat on s v road in bandra- which he bought and now lives in. meanwhile his workers have moved out from the earlier place and now live in the flat munir used to earlier. the trickle down theory at work.

but munir cant afford the maintenance of the building and is thinking of giving it out on rent while he buys another flat near mount marys in bandra. he is doing well for himself. but the new money has made him anything but happy- he says. he does not know what one does with the money. the only thing he knows and loves is his work. the money seems to have placed a burden for him to become what he does not want to be but the world says he should be- a businessman. when asked what he would like to do with the money he has no idea. so there he is, continuing to do the only thing he knows how to do unaffected by his sudden prosperity. he still travels second class by train from place to place- because he likes to. i guess things will change once he gets married.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


naya daur

it was 1957, 10 years after independence that naya daur struggled with the benefits of industrialization nehru style while quoting gandhi in the title sequences. once the profit motive brings a machine from the city into a village displacing the workers from the traditional work that they were involved in, a debate begins about the role of technology in progress. a race between the machine and man is won by man with a show of the strength in numbers and cooperative work. and to think it was the same year the chandigarh was taking its form with its broad avenues and grids for a future of high speed vehicles while the people still rode bicycles. there is something about the idealism of the times in the film. dilip kumar with a sickle across his shoulders against the sky, the optimistic glint in his eyes and his hair fluttering in the wind must be the symbol for the indian man. shankar is his name in the film- and was that a white knitted fez cap he wore in so many scenes? as a star should- he represents for me the time in which the film was made. vyjayantimala and him have the best on screen chemistry in hindi cinema. the songs are great. fantastic film.

Monday, August 06, 2007

ready to wear . 68 pages

it is always the danger in a robert altman film that the various pieces don’t add up to much. but when they do it can be fantastic. in ‘ready to wear’, the observations and characters cant rise above clich├ęs regarding the two faced nature of the fashion industry whether that is the promiscuousness or the bitchiness. meandering to nowhere in particular the film could have ended in the first fifteen minutes for me.

‘68 pages’ was a well intentioned sincere film about tolerance of hiv positive people, no matter what colour of the rainbow- gay, transgendered, heterosexual, sex worker.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


coloured hair is cool. so is wearing black leather and walking in slow motion – while hips sway for women, it’s the shoulders that do for the men. also animation is cool. and having as expressionless a face as possible even when the plot gets more and more inane and the film gets to a point where to call it ridiculous would mean a comparison with our ideas of sanity- which would be unfair. and tarantino is god! didn’t you know? so cool. man he is cool. and fast cars too. and fast bikes, helicopters, skateboards - anything that moves – as long as its fast. and then we will play it in slow motion. cool.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

jashn e azadi . partner

for all its rather incendiary content jash e azadi seemed rather conventional in the way it was made. i wonder whether there is any way in which we can escape the repertoire of images that portray the beauty or the violence within the area under the siege of violence. the barbed wire through which we see ordinary citizens pass, the relentless check posts or the shots of army trucks that move in cordons through pristine surroundings. the voice over and the music too seemed like something i was immediately familiar with from so many films seen earlier. i guess it was a welcome relief from the chest thumping self centerdness of a 'final solution' or an arch over aestheticed complexity under which the content of the film would have been lost. and the content was powerful and important to be seen for us all. the unbelievable humiliation and atrocities that kashmiri muslims have to undergo as a daily aspect of their lives and the smug self satisfaction of the indian state as it clamps down on a people who vociferously reject them.

miles away from jashn e azadi was ‘partner’ in the evening. david dhawans attempts at crazy comedy seem forced now. while the whacky timing and humour of the 90s films kept you constantly on the edge, his later films have tended towards the soft focus prettiness and smoothness than blunts all the edges of the jokes. still when it works it works. govinda is fantastic and salman sweet enough. the girls look beautiful and the songs are great to dance to.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

happy birthday aditya

at sea view yesterday we had another party in adityas name. a birthday party a day earlier. and here is he dancing wancing with chitra at mukuls place on saturday.