Thursday, January 31, 2008

long overdue photopost no 9 - new city sights

link road slum rehab building being finished. the rehab is upstairs with the mhada logos, the lower half is sale component commerical part.

right next door to it is this - a red and blue mall with an open court in between. it seemed almost all right until the cladding and the cornices at the top completely destroyed it. the spire is as yet unexplained. watch this space.

random photo of the textures of a flyover under construction. this one at malad.

long overdue photopost no 8 - ferry ride (for the sake of it) . bad art on the way back

sun sets behind a burning city / ketaki sheth - awful sentimental photographs of cute poor children / public art at bandra 'the child makes a woman a mother' (or something like that)

long overdue photopost no 7 - bhaucha dhakka - life in the terminus

long overdue photopost no 6 - sonals birthday parties

rupali and namrata's delicious strawberry cheesecake / pizza from joey's / beer at sea view

long overdue photopost no 5 - padmatai's concert at bombay university

long overdue photopost no 4 - kyani's . edward theater

long overdue photopost no 3 - tushar . navjot . talvin singh

long overdue photopost no 2 - pina bausch . manish's kelwan

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

long overdue photopost no 1 - visitors from the usa

sonal and sanghavi all the way from new york. came on different days, independent of one another- dont start getting any ideas..

boredom and the blog

i am bored with the blog. it used to be a place whose presence gave me a reason to re-look at the world around me, find words to describe it. the ordinary took on ‘significance’ to be thought about, get confused about, pontificate about. now, as these pontifcations become more pompous and tedious, i find myself struggling to keep interested. i am not so much worried about the blog becoming boring (i don’t read it)- i am afraid it might have lost its ability to excite me about every little thing in every day. i might be settling for a more inert way of living and watching the days go by- not noticing things and therefore not talking about them.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

suggested ways to spend the afternoon (no 1)

in between finishing work in college at 2 or so and dinner at 5 spice in town, a good way to spend the afternoon happens to be a ferry ride from bhaucha dhakka to rewas and back. you will start off by parking your car outside the main gate along with the huge trucks that line the street. chai and omlettes at the many small shops in the main terminus will help you pass the time as you watch the day trippers, the daily commuters, the fishermen who go through there everyday. also then there are the permanent inhabitants of the space- the shoe polish guy who follows you around lowering his price from an exorbitant 5 rs to a more reasonable 4, the owners and the workers in the food stalls who slip money to the policemen patrolling the shed and there is asif from up who just arrived in bombay 2 weeks back and now lives on top of the stall with a pink mosquito net protecting him and his brothers. the nine hundred and twenty architectural design thesis done here, that transform this into megastructure multimodal transport node with pizza huts and glass morphing roofs hover like bad dreams over these people.

the winter sun is soft on the boat as we pass stationary barges desliting the docks, huge ships anchored off the shore. a girl sleeps listening to her music phone bathing in the sun. as you approach mora huge cranes rise from the jnpt docks to the left. you can choose to get off and take a walk in the streets of the village or continue to sit as the ferry unloads and reloads its passengers. the sun in lower when you are getting back and comes right in thorough the window. its good photography light. on top of the ferry men sit in corners gossiping loudly in marathi and others get into the mood of the ocean by staring through sunglasses, wearing bandannas at the sunset. the horizon of the city is even more dramatic now with the mill lands disappearing into a haze of looming skyscrapers. the sun sets behind the spectacular skyline burning it away. in winter the smog turns everything into a ruin from the future.

Photographs when the internet starts working more regularly.

Monday, January 28, 2008

accepted / inland empire / the sweet hereafter / junoon / the captive

a weekend of films was a good idea to get away from the obligatory patriotism being forced down my throat by everything on television. republic day began with ‘accepted’- an awful american teenage comedy where a kid rejected from all the ivy leagues starts a college of his own. same old silly tripe about losers who show the blonde hunks that ‘heart’ is really what matters.
but the films of the day were really david lynch’s ‘inland empire’ and atom egoyan’s ‘the sweet hereafter’. inland empire was a hallucinatory trip into a lynchian world even stranger than before. in some the earlier films i have seen there always was something to hold on to while the weirdness took over. here none of that exists. an actress gets a role of a lifetime to play the protagonist of a remake of a polish folk tale only to discover that the earlier time the story was attempted to be filmed both the lead actors were murdered. and so the tale begins as we follow laura dern into a sitcom set where rabbits play the main parts, women dance to the locomotion’, someone somewhere is being murdered- i have no idea who or what. as if the play on fiction and reality was not enough, characters turn into each other sometimes and everything just might be a dream. i enjoyed it more than i am willing to admit with all its glorious over the top madness it was enigmatic, frightening and odd. just don’t know what happened.
in ‘the sweet hereafter’ a schoolbus accident in a freezing north american town brings an ambulance chasing lawyer to its doorstep hoping to device for himself a case. as he shamelessly and ruthlessly exploits the pain of the parents who lost their children his own relationship with his druggie daughter haunts him. ghosts of ang lee’s ‘the ice storm’ were around as ruptures in the community fabric get created by the tragedy- some painful, others liberating.
in ‘junoon’ for a change we empathize with the british family which during the 1857 revolution loses its only man and is at the mercy of a caring nawabs family as the nawab lusts after the teenage girl. Its nice for a change to see another side in the otherwise jingoistic ‘mangal pandey’ type of brit bashing. shashi kapoor plays the nawab and nafisa ali the girl.
but for me the best film of the weekend was chantal akerman’s ‘the capitve’, her take on one of the stories from the proust novel ‘in search of lost time’. if you have ever been in a love so obsessive that it completely takes over your life, this film manages to capture the humiliations, jealousies and insecurities of that relationship. an impassive young woman is held captive in a perpetual vice of surveillance by her jealous boyfriend, especially after he learns about her attraction towards women. which one of them is the prisoner is difficult to sort out. the movie was constructed as a series of spare scenes where the drama is played out quietly and carefully.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

happy hookers. bomgay

its odd that i found myself disturbed by the most strange of phenomenon as i was watching happy hookers- a film about three male sex workers in bombay. what i found disturbing was perhaps the ease that the men had with themselves and their jobs. the film was able to portray that ease without any sense of voyeurism and was able to throw open difficult questions regarding sex and morality, gender and issues regarding privacy. when one of the guys who happens to also be married throws open his doors for the film maker and goes ahead and performs a romantic walk with his wife and child (who don’t know about his night job) for the camera, you cant help but be disconcerted. yet the film is able, in spite of an unfortunate detour into information brochure world, to be one of nicest films i have seen regarding sex workers and homosexuality in the city. warm and gentle – in spite of the possible scandalous nature of the subject matter.

even better for me was the 12 minute long bomgay- a series of six terse brutally honest short improvisations on the poetry of r raja rao, each looking at different aspects of living on the edge of ‘normaility’ from the oddness of everyday life to erotic undercurrents to the fear of being attacked and loneliness.

Monday, January 21, 2008

a summary sheet of the past few days

since the main computer of the house has crashed taking with it the fast (only relatively) net connection i have been checking mail on the laptop which has its advantages (i am sitting in front of the tv right now) but means that i have been unable to rd my phone of the photographs i clicked from wednesday to today. i haven’t blogged either as i was waiting for anand to come fix the comp before i posted. but since it seems like that’s going to take longer than i thought; and because too many things have happened meantime this post cant wait anymore.

wednesday was a long day. it started out in college with the auroville presentation by the third year. while some salivated over the architectural experiments, others were skeptical of not only the ‘maa’ dreamt utopia of white skinned spirituals, but also of its pseudo anti paper money stance. the day was planned as a series of gallery hopping after surabhi joined us at andheri station, but not before benita and me dropped in at sheila’s for a meeting on project possibilities that included ideas for rental housing for migrants. at chemould tushar’s monuments and edifices were anti monuments proposed to be placed in nonplaces. comic book drawings, a video where tushar becomes the lions on the ashoka stambha and fragments of body parts mutating into monuments lying around the gallery with tiers all around. navjot for her bombay shots exhibition has asked some of the inhabitants of the city about the spaces that they loved in it. after having conversations with them, she went ahead and photographed the spaces with a digital camera where she superimposed a mug shot of them on photoshop. the images were beautiful and affectionate. bose had curated a show of “work” by talvin singh that was a ridiculously pointless sound installation surrounded by mediocre fuzzy photos framed.

but the main event of the day was the screening of a film on the german owner of edward theater at edward theater – ‘gertrud’. the interior of the theater is all sky blue with white frills, steep tiers with surprisingly comfortable wooden seats. the movie was unfortunately a silly tribute with over the top pandering by all the brown employees of gertrud’s warmth, affection, generosity. if i had seen the film any other time or place i would have completely cringed but here, as each of the employees clapped every time they came on screen, i could not help but feel some kind of fuzzy nostalgia for a bygone time. i wonder whether i am going to feel the same about the fame adlabs alucobond facades in another 20 years.

more movies this week. ‘darkman’ – sam raimi before spiderman enjoying the very over-the-top of the comic book film genre. liam neeson plays a man whose life is shattered when his girlfriend stumbles upon a real estate scam and has to take on the persona of ‘darkman’ whose skin disintegrates in sunlight.

‘the world’ – jia zhangke’s ironic look at globalization and its discontents in china shot almost completely at the ‘world park’ in beijing where the monuments of the world have been recreated in miniature. ‘visit the whole world without leaving beijing’. a love story unfolds in between the miniature eiffel tower and the pyramids. relationships fracture in the new landscape. beautiful and sad.

closed doors and stuff inside the magazines syndrome – odd film about an odd man. a notoriously reclusive assamese novelist whose face has never been seen is the subject of this documentary of sorts, except that without ever seeing the subjects face the only choice the film maker seems to have is to illustrate a few speeches in stylized montages of mirror shots, fast and slow motion movement and multiple shots of everyday acts that stand in for deeper metaphorical ideas.

‘the lake house’ where keanu reeves and sandra bullock love each other across two years in time through a series of sappy letters. even for a film that i expected to be awful, this ended up being worse- what with its cringeworthy architectspeak and soaring violin end.

yesterday there was a concert by padmatai at her son in law’s house- which happens to be the bungalow of the vice chancellor of bombay university in the middle of the kalina campus. it was her 89th birthday and she was in full form with anecdotes about her father who allowed her to sing in spite of being from a ‘good’ family at the age of 6. besides her sharp sense of humor and her tart one liners the singing was still incredible.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

the scripting of reality – laguna beach

laguna beach is the oddest show. the real lives of rich teenagers are re-enacted as a reality show by themselves. begging the obvious questions about art and real life and which dictates and informs what, it gets even more complicated when it is unclear what is fiction and what real if everything is enacted and scripted but the consequences of the actions affect the world outside the frame of the camera. the problem of the perpetual performance in front of the camera is acknowledged unabashedly by the way the show is conceived and shot. Everything ends up being part of the game, even us sitting on this side of the screen don’t know when and how we end up on the other side acting as viewers.

surveillance and the digital archive

in a conversation / presentation today in college regarding the construction of a free source digital archive of random unused footage from a variety of sources, the problems i had were many. it seemed like it emerged from the rather archaic idea that everything can be fully described by words through the act of naming, i.e. - a comprehensive tagging system. like an image, object, event can be fully and completely realized through comprehensively describing it in minute detail in words. and for what purpose? but we shall get to that later. and why should one contribute? in a time when server space is easily available for me to broadcast myself to whoever may choose to find me why do i subject myself and my subjects to a tagging system.

did not the problematic of the act of naming and thus defining for persecution or pleasure make orientals all of us? this leftover of the outmoded and unfashionable urge of the enlightenment project was disturbing, the new technology or the leftspeak freeware spiel notwithstanding.

but that might not be the only difficulty. what can one say when the act of indexing allows and enables the complete destruction, not merely a deconstruction, of a subject’s self by juxtaposing superficial similarities through a process of cross indexing that negates broader contextual differences.

“and for what purpose?” i asked earlier. is information knowledge? a glut of images culled from a variety of sources flooding the net clubbed together by a few words. does this constitute an archive? if all archives have an area of interest, what is the interest of this one? what are its politics besides its freeware argument which conflates private space with private property, and in turn misunderstands both?

to say that if something is on record in a digital format somewhere in the world it should be immediately part of the public domain is simplistic in my understanding of things. what happens when what’s on camera is invasive and something that the subject is uncomfortable to share with the world? does the act of wielding a camera immediately entitle you to the right to broadcast what happens in a particular relationship across the world? to say that if something is done in public space and is recorded it can be broadcast is surveillance of the most frightening kind. and if these were to be locatable on a map it can form a tool of oppression and repression even more easily than it can be something that can serve to free.

there is a freedom in darkness, in hidden corners. a place where what is considered illegitimate survives and thrives. these are necessary spaces that can only survive out of the mega-information networks of such new media initiatives. those who believe in the redemptive power of an all revealing light can only be those who already occupy a priviledged position in society and therefore are not prone to be attacked.

in other words, i think the project misunderstands not merely the notion of privacy, but that of the role of technology as a liberator, that of the gaze and accessibility, that of language and freedom. the project misunderstands and misuses power.

Monday, January 14, 2008

the death of mr lazarescu

this is a film that should be more depressing than it actually is. when mr lazarescu, living in a lonely filthy apartment in bucharest begins to feel unwell and calls the ambulance a long tedious journey begins for him through the night through the absurd bureaucracies of a series of hospitals who keep passing him on to the next. somehow able to stay outside the film we keep watching without getting sentimental as the story unfolds. and thank god for that. nothing in the film seems false or unrealistic with handheld camerawork and great acting. the film is a dry, black but yet warm comedy on the medical profession in romania and will seem closer to home than you can imagine if any of you have been to a municipal hospital in mumbai.


had a kelvan for my cousin manish at the shack in the middle of the mango grove on saturday. its too bad my computer has crashed or there were photographs here of the mad binging and drinking party around the purple fringed tables around the lone mango tree. cousins from around the city and pune and nasik were here. anoushka and atharva, amod’s kids, stayed over. maybe i will post the photos later.

free running . pina bausch

i am fascinated by the concept of free running. amay tells me there is group of people in chembur who have begun a club. there is something subversive about running wild in the direction of a randomly picked vector in the city. by becoming a wild animal rushing over the pavements and compound walls, the city becomes a forest by our return to our primeval selves. our bodies destroy notions of order by slicing property lines, juxtaposing differences into one experience, overturning the strict boundaries that we have constructed in an effort to civilize. bodies make new maps through what they experience in that fleeting mad race. on marine drive sapna has decided to map the movement of bodies as they trace thorugh gesture and posture a way of inhabitation. luckiliy she is a dancer.
at the pina bausch rehearsal of ‘bamboo blues’ at ncpa the same evening (friday)dancers from around the world performed a work inspired by her visit to kokata and kerala with the men and the women dressed in lungis and flowing gowns respectively. granted the india inspirations were rather superficial – but why should we expect anymore, but it was still less exploitative than that midsummer nights dream from last week. but the dancers were divine. their bodies in all shapes and sizes swirled and leaped gracefully across the stage; sometimes one body would split into two- one part pushing the other part - sometimes a palm could twist the body off the stage into the air.

Friday, January 11, 2008

millenium mambo

enraptured by its own formalism, this film by taiwan's hou hsiao-hsien told a story about a young woman’s inertia that keeps her caught between a loser boyfriend and a gangster friend/lover, this was a film that left me completely cold. the neon lit or bead curtained interiors of clubs and apartments were too lush, the characters too much like more such ornamentation on the screen. the claustrophobic style overwhelmed what little the film wanted to say. all this useless beauty. it seems like this is what the world expects out of cinema from south east asia, think wong kaw-wai, and this film delivers obediently.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

chinatown . take the lead

chinatown is a place where you cant control what is going to happen, a place where gittes the detective tries to do ‘as little as possible’, a place where all rules break down. leisurely and beautifully constructed twisted tale right up to the very dark end set in the heat of los angeles, the story follows a marlowe type detective as he tries to uncover the secret behind the murder of the chief of the water and power department. faye dunaway plays the femme fatale with the dark secret and jack nicholson the detective.

and at the other end is ‘take the lead’. antonio banderas as a ballroom dancer teaching inner city kids the meaning of respect through the foxtrot. cringe-worthy.

Monday, January 07, 2008

'the perverts guide to the cinema'. 'luminous people'

more than somewhat of a stretch, the readings of the pop psychoanalyst and pseudo philosopher in this perverts guide might be accused of marring forever the way you will watch some classic films ranging from psycho to the great dictator. is it all supposed to be serious or fun is never really clear- but after many tedious pontifcations regarding the superego and the death wish in ‘alien resurrection’ we had to give the film a break.

so much more and so different is the short 15 minutes of sublime bliss that apichatpong weerasethakul manages to create in ‘luminous people’. a group of villagers is traveling in a boat recreating a ritual after a death. somehow in every frame captured lies real life- palpable and awe inspiring in every single gesture and act.

meha's story

the sunday in pictures – train / meha / midsummer nights dream / bluefrog / omlette pav

after a long time in a local train makes you romanticize the green seats, the dangling handles, the sunlight in your eyes, and even the terrible wave like grills in the windows.

at kuntals house meha told us a long story of anmals with daadi and mooch having a bath and being wiped by napkins.

at marine drive, new rides for the pleasure of the tourists - flowers and lights on the ghoda gaadi with dard-e-disco shahrukh on the back and poor kids pushing rich kids around th parking lot in mini cars.

the midsummer nights dream production at jamshed bhabha auditorium was perhaps overrated and oversized but still fun. malkhamb acrobats spout shakespeare in tamil, hindi, marathi, bengali and even sinhalese with a little english thrown in. a much venerated language disintegrates into the cadences and rhythms of accents from the subcontinent as the story is told through intense physicality. actors disappear into the scaffolding to the back, rise in red ribbons and skip and get entangled in webs spun by a bawdy puck across the sand pit of a stage. mining the exotic, making the alien stranger by making it purely about form, problematic the politics of the play were – but i can imagine having a terrific time with the bollywood over the topness in birmingham or new jersey.

a jazz concert by a dutch flamenco funk jazz band at the new swanky ‘blue frog’. kapil regurgitates currently vogue biomorphic razzmatazz as a landscape of seating pods overlooking a dancefloor and stage. the old mill land north light roof truss now flickers with computer generated animation of daisies and little girls turning nuclear bombs into trees. the sustainability message perhaps does not really extend to the working mill across the yard that might soon be replaced by another night club. silly regressive me and my cynicism. great scale of the space though. and very cool.

but the omlette pav at santacruz was divine- and at one tenth the price of the burger at the frog.