Friday, May 30, 2008

satyam shivam sundaram

for adults only: the amazing morning bhajans from ‘satyam shivam sundaram’. she is the only woman who can be sexy in spite of being, or maybe because, she is so incredibly ungraceful and awkward. it seems as if she is trying too hold her assets together as she walks through the forest and is not quite able to. while ‘bhor’ has the distinction of having the wonderful walk and the waterfall scene; the title track has the innocent belle doing naughty naughty things to a phallus in national flag filters. but it must be my dirty mind working- raj kapoor meant no such connotation. you tube the title track for your opinion.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

strange dream no 277 . two novels

why were we in a restaurant having dinner at night which was a low lit cottage with a wide verandah, when paro and me slipped to the window looking inwards to admire charles correa and his wife angelina jolie eat food and laugh with their friends?

two novels of satire and farce. in ‘vanity fair’ i really wanted the bitchy and nasty rebecca to climb her way to the top and lost my patience with the long suffering amelia; and ‘don quixote’ whose rambling adventures are not managing to keep my interest, except occasionally.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


its been a long time since i went to dronagiri, the node being designed to cater to the jnpt. nothing much seems to have changed as far as housing goes, but there are far more container yards and the toll road is piled high with rumbling trucks. so much infrastructure with no one around except for a w sleepy villages.
the last time i was in this part of new bombay was at least 5 years back when the huge monstrous kanvinde building was standing alone in empty barren plots with two other high rises. completely incongruous they were then and still are now. at that time all the buildings were completely empty and derelict. this time at least two of them looked inhabited while the kanvinde building was either being demolished or was undergoing some serious reconstruction.

be kind rewind

sentimental it might be, but that does not make ‘be kind rewind’ less smart, or less moving. in fact the fuzzy warmth is able to stay away from spielbergian cuteness by just being more real and that is something in a plot that reads like a madman’s fantasy. it would have been easy to let this rather oddball story of a man whose magnetic head erases all the videotapes in a video store, and when him and his friend are forced to remake all the films for the customers, into an adam sandler bumbling idiot trash film- or what passes for comedy in hollywood. instead the film is a lovable, witty and brilliant homage to cinema as an integral part of the everyday lives and the imaginations of ordinary people. film as folk art, as a handmade quilt assembled out of very ingeniously reinvented and recreated parts with the rough edges not merely shown, but displayed in full glory. the actors play famous parts with the glee of playacting children by donning costumes made by assembling readymade, reused, recycled objects. the makeshift madness continues with free flowing inventive rough handcrafted ‘special effects’ from famous films. perhaps the film can be read as being a little too romantic about the ‘loss’ of the tacky analog and suspicious of the digital. but i thought not. it seemed to be addressing more the way that technology can enable us all to be artists. a call for a ‘democratic’ art. youtube? towards the end of the film, cinema is used to invent a glorious history to save the neighbourhood from gentrification. “its our history- we can do what we want with it.” what a good film!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

in which i try and figure out why i don’t like the raghu rai exhibition at the ngma

i need to think this through. as mukul, kuntal and me spent an hour or so wandering through rows and rows of enormous black and white prints and super saturated colours of india blow ups of of ‘classic’ raghu rai images i was left pretty much indifferent. i found the images to be over-framed and unnecessarily ‘constructed’ to a point where the narrative of the image is reduced to the most banal observations made by any traveler to the country., i.e. the ironies of juxtaposition- the old and the new, the rich and poor, the cow and the tractor.
or there is that 'one detail' that is supposed to make the photograph- the two umbrellas in the bottom right corner of a landscape, or the man scratching his crotch in a group shot. the 'punctum' i assume. although i have always thought that the punctum is found by every person within the image for themselves not thrust into your face until it becomes the photograph. it might as well then have been pointed out by placing an arrow on it and letting the rest of the photo disappear.

the over framed makes all into exotic and what passes for content is a simple minded one liner that merely repeats all the cliches of innumerable exotic india brochures. and for the sake of merely, for the lack of a better term, i can only call the ‘oh-how-cool’ factor. spectators of the great indian exotica show are supposed to drop their jaws in disbelief at the great ironies of the subcontinent. you are told what to think when you pause in front of every image like its an illustration of a children’s book.

and but far worse, and this is debatable, were for me the posed celebrity shots of artists. what makes the photographer and his model choose, for example, hariprasad chaurasia on a beach looking wistfully sideways with a flute in his hand as waves crash- as a portrait; or for that matter satyajit ray on a bed twisted on his back and making wild eyes at the camera. what extremely silly imaginations of the artist are being constructed and propagated through these images?

the disaster photographs of the bhopal tragedy were manipulative and coarse in their shameless sentimentality, the bombay photographs repeated cliches of speed and trains and marine drive, the benares photographs showed us half naked wrstlers, praying swamis, naga babas... the only images that did not make me cringe were the photographs of politicians and the immense street and crowd shots that let the image itself do the telling. these were spectacular and beautiful.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


i must admit to being more than a little obsessive about finding the home where i stayed for 15 days with rahul and a bunch of bratty teenagers the last time i was in matheran. that was when i was 12 and i remember the place only from very vague memories of a glazed verandah and a clearing surrounded by a forest where we used to exercise early in the mornings. there was just a such a clearing in front of the hotel where we lived and i kept wondering whether fate had brought me back to exactly the same place 25 years later. what would be the odds?

'the verandah in the forest' was the rather romantic name of the hotel. non-hotel- it was billed at; which meant no air conditioning, no television. kuntal, nandita and meha could not make it, though it was their find, because of meha falling very ill on the day that we were supposed to leave. very unfortunate.

the said verandah was a wide airy space that ran the length of the house as it shot over the contours. somewhere toward the middle it widened to allow you to look through a clearing in the trees to the lights of bombay. i kept wondering about the longing for the city of the man who built this. on the day that we arrived the sky was crystal clear and the skyline shone in sparks- further in the distance the horizon of the sea.

as you can imagine we spent most of our time lounging in this verandah, drinking earl grey tea, being waited on hand and foot, reading novels. in the garden were hammocks for afternoon naps.

in the building the rooms had high ceilings and in the living room lovingly restored with peeling wallpaper stained glass shone orange and green light in. dinner was on an enormous dark wood ostentatious dining table complete with candelabras and walls with framed mirrors and dead englishmen and parsis. in the verandah all you can hear is the chirping of birds and the distant toll of the temple bell. how we soaked in the period piece luxury of four course dinners and wine, living it up like nawabs in the raj. this nostalgia, not only for a colonial languor, but also for pure uncorrupted nature was felt by us along with a few other english speaking upper class travelers from the metros and foreign travelers looking for romantic exotic getaways. a yearning for a gentler past where the lower classes and darkies were kept safely away or serving you tea in silver trays. mold, rust and ruin are strangely comforting. and so is the silence. can i stop being so bloody smug right now!?

it was lovely, for god's sake! a far cry from most of the other hotels in the city that blare hindi film music and are adorned with party lights. veg only gujarathi thali specials with swimming pools and water fountains. none of the senses was left to just be. every hotel had to be a complete work of art and artifice, glorious in exuberance of sound, sight, form and texture. the world is adorned. experience complete.

caught between the wilting nostalgia of the old colonial, parsi or bohra bungalows that are slowly disintegrating from age and lack of maintenance and the new glitzy holiday packages of the honeymooning couples and the families n their annual holiday matheran still manages to satisfy both. there are enough places to get away from the hindi film music and more than enough photogenic points to capture romantic memories on camera or to watch your favorite aunt dance like madhuri dixit.

i hope i am not as naïve to suggest one kind of matheran to be more authentic than the other. but give me the former any day of the week. long walks down red mud paths with looming trees on both sides with sunlight that filters down sometimes through the leaves and discovering new roads and getting lost in the dark. the red mud lifts in waves with every foot fall and every hoof print. it begins to rise along the roads taking over the lower leaves of the bushes and the trees until they are covered completely. in the rains, i am told, they will be green again.

we walked from point to point – louisa, porcupine, alexander, one tree hill until we had criss crossed the city many times by foot. once we even mounted horses. mine was glossy black and the other white. the hills are craggy and muscular with tufts of forest clinging to the cliffs. in the valleys dry rivers run grey and rocky.

at alexander point sujay with his binoculars surveyed the terrain trying to figure out the new roads, new tunnels and buildings that were being built. he had never been anywhere but here but seemed to be intent on knowledge from his lookout at the top of the hill.

amar, the horseboy lived off the railway track from dasturi to matheran in indira gandhi nagar with a group of men who worked with him. his employer for the 4 months of the season were a group of matheran natives who ran horses in the derby. he leanr to work with horses when he was forced to find work in the hill after his father died. in the off season he works on the farm with his crippled mother.

gomdas on the other hand has a full time job in the verandah in the forest. his home is in the tribal village in the valley near alexander point. once a month he walks down to it for his holiday. two and a half hours by foot- for him. for us it will be longer.

on the way back, maushi carried all our bags on her head while we struggled alongside, all the way from the hotel to the parking lot.

i finished two novels lounging in the easy chairs- ‘arthur and george’ by julian barnes about sir arthur conan doyle and half parsi man falsely accused of murdering cattle; and ‘in the beauty of the lilies’ by john updike- an american saga of the last century, complete with preachers falling out of love with god and in love with cinema, to a rage to riches story of a hollywood diva and a grandson who finds himself in a religious cult.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

oberoi mall . speed racer . more summer reading

new mall !new mall!… and this one with a sense of scale like inorbit and (unfortunately?) missing the razzmatazz of raghuleela. granted it is a little subdued for a northern suburb mall (i mean, v mall is just down the road offering red yellow geometric free play as façade) being all frosted glass façade and arcing canopy, but the internal ‘street’ with its criss crossing reflective escalators and frosted glass bridges are so fritz lang ‘metropolis’. bodies moving and floating at different levels as far as the eye can see refracted and reflected in the glass railings and as shadows behind the frosted bridges. the elevator shaft glows in changing light patterns through the atrium.

‘speed racer’ was the color of peppermint and toys designed for little girls by conglomerates. fuscia, vermillion, cerulean blue backgrounds obviously and shamelessly blue screened behind a silly plot about ‘passion’ for racing’s battle against big business. a little ironic this, considering that this is the wachowski brothers retreat into commercial fare after being roundly thrashed for the pseudo philosophical crap of ‘the matrix’ films and ‘v for vendetta’ (which i have not seen). but who am i to be so prudish. perhaps there is some deep meaning hidden in the adrenalin rushes and big car chases perpetually interrupted by some kind of family value storyline. silly mindless fun complete with a chimp that fights.

and for the new summer reads..

'the curious incident of the dog in the night time' was gifted to me by apu, arijit and rishi where a 'special' kid investigated the murder of a neihghbourhood dog and discovers a secret kept from him by his father.

and in 'tess of the d'ubervilles' thomas hardy's heroine is a tragic beautiful maiden caught between two men who use her and reject her.

Friday, May 16, 2008

pune highway . slum meeting . dear liar . october . spade

pune seems like a city that is intent on getting its act together- or at least making sure it makes all the necessary moves so that it appears like it is getting its act together. as the city is exploding on the fringes into luxury apartments and special townships slum housing seems to be becoming the concern of the academies. that’s a good thing. but the solutions being imagined are severely limited by the possibilities within the jnnurm and the sra models.

on the way to pune at joshi wadwale adyllic rural maharashtra

paul, sheila and me drove to a college of architecture in pune yesterday to try and develop a method of inventing new ways of interviewing and naturally imaginging housing in slums. as in before having and answer to know what is the question-exactly. so there we were in a conference room with representatives from architecture colleges, community groups and their ngo representatives. it was decided to hold a workshop in the month of june where all of us would participate in examining communities and developing solutions particular to their needs. 4th year design students, 10 of them, will be part of this. hopefully it will pan out. seemed like an interesting development. after the workshop the project might even gain academic legitimacy if the pune university decides to loosen its grip on what constitutes legit architecture at the fourth year level.

i almost missed 'dear liar' at prithvi because of the meeting though- and it would have been quite a tragedy. nasserudin shah and ratna pathak playing bernard shaw and his love interest, the actress mrs patrick campbell., read their love letters to one another. both were terrific, naseer was better. but the leters were the stars. brilliant and witty.

what is with the organic twists and urns on the walls and ceiling at alfredos?

at home today, i finally decided to watch eisenstein’s ‘october’ which has been sitting on my computer for too long now. i wish all agit prop films were this exhilarating. there is no way not to be completely taken in when lenin enters, or when the palace is stormed, or not to be amused with the cheap potshots at the monarchy and the provisional government that took its place. And in the middle of all that historical narrative there are still the faces of people who you remember and become emblematic of the characters in the drama.

samira's publiching debut 'spade' is out with articles by quaid, chhaya, mustansir, aniket, rupali and me.. among others. 'architecture and politics' is what it claims to be about.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

thesis day : my three students

saki inserted a jewelery institute through a block of old nashik directly opposite sarkar wada. the building snakes its way through the fabric revitalizing the existing decrepit buildings in the middle of the block.

mayur's megaproject restructured the ghats at wai carefully articulating the architecture of the relationships currently existing between the community and the waterfront, and also added new programme to enhance it.

i don't have an image of abhimanyu's museum for chinese migrants opposite the chinese cemetery at antop hill. the building was made of three containers- the suitcase, the barrack and the non-home.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

the waves / (at lunch today)

virginia woolf’s ‘the waves’ moves like a long distance train and you are on the upper berth half asleep. the movement is soothing, gentle; the language precise, perfect as it washes over you in detail heavy images. once drawn in by the rhythm its like being rocked to a sleep filled with vivid soft focus dreams. six identities intersect, merge and dissolve into one another and into this landscape as they love one another and mourn a common loss. as the story is told the sun rises and sets over the sea. a day is a lifetime. and waves are time, are overlapping identities, affections, tenderness, jealousies, resentments and love within the intricately carved terrains of family and friendship..

at lunch today..