Friday, October 30, 2009

new phone / dogtooth . rage . my blueberry nights . ratatouille

i was so complete idiot yesterday when i left my phone alone for merely a second while i opened the car for the guy to change the tires. in that millisecond it was gone and i was forced to carry out ridiculous body searches on the guy who had just passed by. i was so embarrassed. that effectively meant that i had to get me a new phone and i got one with a better camera but way slower in response. oh well, live and learn.

meanwhile the film watching just got more intense with the main festival that started today- and we are already two films down. sally potter’s ‘rage’ purports to be a story shot on a cell phone backstage of a fashion show. fashion models (including a deliciously camp jude law), designers, businessmen, cops and all sorts of fixers speak against a blue (or pink/orange/red) screen to the camera over seven days while accidents and murders occur on the ramp. it must have been the acting that redeemed the film because i really liked it – in spite of its pretensions and the fashion industry expose storyline and characters. but ‘dogtooth’ took the claustrophobia of domesticity and made it horrifying- but never unbelievable and always with a nasty sense of humour. two girls and a boy are kept captive in an ideal house- swimming pool and sundeck- by their parents. complicated plots are woven to make prisons inside the prison- rituals of celebration and rewards, competitions and games. only one outsider is allowed to enter to satisfy the sexual urges of the boy. it would be unwatchable if it was not so brilliantly funny in parts and shockingly dark in others- like the killing of the cat, or the scene where the elder girl finally gets a name ‘bruce’ by watching jaws, or the removal of the dogtooth by the dumbbell.

without christopher doyle wong kar wai has gone crazy with darius khondji over ‘my blueberry nights’. the scenes in the bar where the two would be loers meet shimmer in glazing and mirror- hazy dizzying madness. as norah jones journeys across the country to find herself after a break up- it merely gets more visually gorgeous and utterly pointless. all style going nowhere.

ratatouille made me hungry. a rat cooks up french cuisine in a fancy restaurant in paris. my favorite scene was the rat rising from the sewers of paris climbing the pipes of an apartment building watching murderers and lovers until he gets to the roof and looks across at the eiffel tower. it reminded me of my favorite of the paintings that ranz, sau and pottu had made- ‘the boy in the balcony’.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


got back from the third year study trip yesterday. pen. just across the harbor from the city. not that far, just off the mumbai-goa highway and the scene of some of the most atrocious land grabs by india shining. between the highway and the coastline is a land of incredible fertility. flat rich soil that has been reclaimed form the sea by the ancestors of the agri community. this is a fact that is reiterated by almost everyone we met over the two days that i was there. they are very proud of this part of their history as they are about the agitation for land that they carried out in the 1930’s for land reform, by not tilling the land for 7 years straight. they won that war; and now they hope ot win this one. on the road to the coast that runs through paddy fields as far as the eye can sea we saw a board that advertises ‘arrow city/ manhattan’ which i assume is aprt of the sez being planned for that area by reliance – maha mumbai. the war is against this- and it seems well organized, articulate and firm about its position. there are books of poems written against the sez which are to be sung by to tunes of popular hindi and marathi songs, a booklet on the culture of the agri community, posters that tell the farmers of what future waits fro them if they do sell their farms to the sez. there are even ideas regarding what other possibilities can be there for development within the area. these include aquaculture and organic farming. every house has a pond to the rear where fish breed; one farmer has a prawn farm which makes him tons of money. why in the world would they want to sell out? it seems that the state has done everything within their power to stifle the farmers in the area. a pipeline that was to bring water to the area so that they could have a second crop has been stopped. abandoned pipes lie across the landscape. maharashtra is the only state, it seems, where industry gets preference over agriculture for water supply. every corner and at every house we were asked about our business there. the kids are studying families from different classes, their homes and the institutional networks that they access. the idea is to examine what role architecture can perform in this context- besides the most obvious one- colluding with the sez plans for it parks. it might be another matter that we lived in a fancy hotel on the highway with a swimming pool.

first meeting

the backyard pond

pipes in wait

backyard fish

sunset shot

thakur's house

to site

the meeting

sizing up the poultry

house no 2

prawn farm

swimming pool

house in vithalwadi

the bund that keeps the sea at bay

rice mill


the lake in vashi

the historic dam

blue. 42nd street . three monkeys. fando and lis . the manchurian candidate . grave of the fireflies. gaslight

please, no one watch blue! i admit to making the mistake in spite of detesting akshay kumar films. it was only because amit insisted that i sat through the awful film where motorcycle chases go on endlessly with no one caring to know who is chasing whom or why; lara dutta wears a bikini and otherwise mouths three unnecessary sentences to showcase her acting skills, sanjay dutt mumbles incoherently about a childhood trauma that keeps him from the ‘lady in blue’ and akshay is just plain annoying as the cool dude. there is nothing to recommend the film- not even as bollywood fluff. it is boring.

the whole of 42nd street concerns the putting on of a musical. the mousy first timer ends up becoming the star and everyone ends up happy. the busby berkeley showstopper at the end has all the ingredients of an oscar interlude. grand staircases leading to the sky that light up with every step, showgirls kicking high heels high and top hats on most of the men.

so very avant garde was alexandro jodorowsky’s ‘fando and lis’. fando pulls along his lame lover lis along a barren landscape on a cart with a drum and a phonograph towards the mythical city of tar. along the way flashbacks and surreal madness include seductions in a graveyard to cars, bodies slithering in a muddy swamp and a spiraling canyon.

the apartment where most of the drama of ‘three monkeys’ occurs is shot as a labyrinth of doors, mirrors, glass and wood frames. spaces open and close as characters move in and around the labyrinth. through the window beyond the tracks and the highway is the mediterranean. the story concerns an affair between the wife of a chauffeur and his employer politician as he takes the fall for a hit and run accident that he was no part of. the son gets to know about the affair and hell breaks loose.

a perpetual downer but so beautifully made is ‘grave of the fireflies’. it starts off by the death of a young man in a trains station and flashes back to the last days of the war when his family was torn apart by the bombing of his hometown. losing his mother and father he tries to take care of his little sister as a vagabond living in a bomb shelter on the outskirts of the city. the sweet girl dies of malnutrition. terribly serious and extremely beautiful.

nothing special but entertaining enough was ‘the manchurian candidate’ a spy drama about the evil communists using the evil ambitions of american politicians to take over the united states of america. a killer is created out of a war hero by hypnosis. he can do absolutely anything after game of solitaire and a look at the queen of diamonds including murdering his fellow officers and even his wife. angela lansbury plays the scheming woman. in ‘gaslight’ she is the tough talking maid who keeps ingrid bergman prisoner in her own house. she inadvertently is party to the grand plan by bergman’s husband to convince her that she is mad. the gaslight in the rooms mysteriously goes up and down and dark shadows crawl up the walls in classic noir style.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

concert. leh. cinema city preview

so… i guess its time to update the blog after a long time. got to keep it running in these times of down time- in case i feel inspired again a few months away. likely? who knows?

i guess there are three highlights since the time i left this space- the first was the concert at mukul’s house where my mother sang in public for the first time since the accident last october when dharmu mama fell asleep at the wheel on the pune expressway. mom was thrown against the back seat and has been weak ever since. i missed most of the first half all because of the unbelievable popularity of the new branch of the ‘borivili biryani center’ at chikuwadi where i waited for food for more than an hour. this was the 2nd of october.

we left for leh the next day by the punjab mail. such a long journey. i spent all of my birthday traveling. i don’t mean to make it sound like a drag. the retreating monsoon made the journey actually very lovely, although waiting for the morning while sleeping on the uncomfortable seats at delhi airport was a bit much.

it was a second year study trip- and i was so hoping that the particular class that had given us so much trauma over the past semester would be transformed by the rarified air and the freezing cold temperature. we studied a part of the old town behind the main mosque where a street runs from an old stupa gate of the city to the palace. sonal seeing the photographs called the city an anthill- and it was. the houses straddle complex levels making underground labyrinths. it was a very difficult area to study. and the kids looked excited. the city is completely abandoned and is waiting to house tourism/ cultural facilities. manisha who has helped restore the old munshi house at the feet of the palace and andre from the ladakh old town initiative seem to be trying hard. there is so much potential for exciting work in the city.

we spent most of the time in the old town, although we took one day trip- to alchi where we touched the indus and to bazgo with its spectacular ruins of a palace and temple. another day it snowed, much to the delight of the class who were seeing it for the first time

i had to leave early to come back for the ‘cinema city’ preview on the 11th at ncpa where kausik had designed the exhibition. the event had to be classified as a mega success- much to our delight- as it turned out that double the number of people expected turned up. the post-event party was at neera’s.