Tuesday, December 29, 2009

idiosyncrasies / bioscope

what is one to make of this one- a mosque at the corner of linking road sells thai massages (original - like in bangkok) on its facade; or the next image which is a man in a dhoti and kurta in the middle of the street at juhu with a placard that says- 'apne dharm par chalo- sabse prem karo' on one side and its english translation- 'everybody follow your religion- love everyone' on the other side. and he smiles as the drivers of the cars wave at him.

and some images of the bioscope- under construction.

3 idiots. la luna. u. dreams of taleem. hunger

i understand the fascination with ‘3 idiots’ completely. it knows its target audience like the back of its hand. if only i was proved wrong and it didn’t but the laughter in all the predictable places in the hall and the gushing enthusiasm of everyone who has seen it shows that the team behind the script and the marketing knew exactly what they were doing. it must be only me, grouch that i am, that the fart jokes, underwear jokes and the piss jokes were plain juvenile; or that the caricaturish stereotyping of outsiders like studious tamilians or the poor or the sick was vicious. and in between all of this crowd pleasing ( for the target ausience is clearly the 22 year old almost adolescent men who would idolize pissing on doors as a sign of rebellion- or 39 year olds who wish they had done so in the non-existent glory days of their pasts) is the sermonizing- all done by the incredibly annoying aamir khan. he preaches to the principal, the parents, the girlfriend, the friends and to us about what learning is, what love is, what duty is, what truth is. and if this was not enough he does it while pretending to be a college kid by slouching his shoulders and raising his eyebrows and looking jaunty. that’s all it takes for a reviewer to say he acts well. around him is a cast that does not ham it as much. madhavan is workable while sharman joshi actually manges to be likeable. and even kareena kapoor is better. but joining aamir in the awful annoyance category is boman irani who rehashes his domineering patriarch role yet again- but this time with another fake accent.

another awful- but quite ina different way- was bertolucci’s ‘la luna’. an opera singer and her lustful relationshiop with her son- in italy. a ridiculous plot made even more so by everyone being just so serious about all the ridiculous mom on son sexuality. some rubbing, some kissing- all lit in gorgeous golden light. soap opera arty style.

‘up’ was much better. pixar animation about a man who after losing his wife takes his house on a trip to south america to fulfill her dreams. beautifully made and really quite moving in so many parts. even though in the later half the villain leers and action sequences are par for the course, the beginning is lovely – especially when the house lifts off the ground for the first time and soars through the city.

‘dreams of taleem’ was sunil’s tribute to chetan datar. a play within a play where a diector (probably datar) and his lover rehearse 1 madhavbaug- a play written by datar about coming out to a mother. extremely moving in so many ways the themes echoed against one another in the narrative and the sudden flourishes of camp whether devdas or the men in silver tights made sure that everything did not become too preachy.

‘hunger’ told the story of bobby sands who starved to death in the 1980s in dublin to protest against the british governments stand in northern ireland. the film follows characters around the prison where he is being kept for a long time including a prison guard and other fellow prisoners through their days in confinement before a conversation between sands and a pastor sets up the finale where in excruciating detail bobby sands dies. beautifully made.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

bhiawandi . annual days and lecture series. visitors


some time last week paul and me took a long arduous drive to bhiwandi to the offices for water supply, agriculture and small dams for data on the tansa river valley. and on the way we were caught in the smoke and squalor of the road and the heavy truck traffic of this industrial town that lies almost completely below a flyover by passing the main town. a truck scratched my side and i pitied the man and could not pick a fight .

a follow up the dutch trip took place in the conference room in school where we discussed collectives, partnerships and strategies for new alliances for architecture in the city.

the dinner at country club, andheri

the iudi conversation on 'alternatives to the master plan'
dad in college

mitali from the first year who won the gold in the commonwealth chess championship

in college the soap opera of the school continues. tears flow, tempers rise and it constantly seems like the world is falling apart at the seams- what with workshops where magic and music, graphic novels and the ubiquitous btech all compete for space- along with the cinema city exhibition being readied for berlin and the ‘looking east’ conference on asian cities. us looking at them?? regardless the chinese and the taiwanese guests were wonderful. joan du spoke of the shenzen area; professor shih wei lou of time and sheng huang showed his beautiful warm work` with a sense of humor that was most refreshing. especially after watching so many traumatized urban design proposals to save the cities of india. the recondition of design is assumed to be a problem- which means that the only way to see cities is through trauma. trying this. this is not to say that all is hunky dory. btu our resolutions to the conflicts within cities is always then based on some presumptions of what can solve them- and in the urban designers vocabulary these are – connectivity, merging, uniformity. this reminds me of the undisciplined city conference and the fundamentally unresolvable conflict between the vitality of the city and the static nature of policy.

as you can imagine, it is social life time all around too. medha is getting married in february and the kelwan was held in borivili which i could not attend because of the annuals. we met them the next day though along with the rest of the family.

atharva ayushka

and later we were surprised by kiran, karen, alison and feroz along with kiran’s girlfriend jessie from australia.

feroz, kiran, jessie, karen and alison




Sunday, December 13, 2009

days of heaven . police, adjective

i find it hard to be able to understand what to make of ‘days of heaven’. a story about three iterant laborers who swindle a rich lonely landowner for his property. not that the story mattered much- or at least for me it didn’t. not even the landscapes or the time that they represented (1919)- for me the film was only about the gorgeous way it looked- bathed in a perpetual golden light. (a ‘magic hour’ film) i was told. the most incredible for me was the scene where the locusts descend on the fields and rise in dark clouds across the sky until an angry fire burns everything to the ground.

it was just yesterday that i wrote part of the brief for this years ‘reflections’ on our gangtok and leh studies where i present a case for the disintegration of known word and meaning associations into constellations of meaning. police, adjective, a romanian film about the gap between law that civilizes and the “right thing” to do. a police inspector spends days following three youngsters after they are reported to have smoked hashish. the law insists that he prosecute while he dithers. it is only when faced with the unflinching clarity of a dictionary defining ‘conscience’, ‘law’, ‘moral’ and police that his humanity is laid to rest.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

dark city .goodbye solo. code 46 .meet me in st louis. a christmas tale. tulpan. and duluth/ the possibility of an island/ the city and the pillar

if there was a theme through all my fever films over the past few days holed up at home it must be the possibility of another place that always exists.

away from the perpetually dark city that transmogrifies every night into a new configurations- where identities are erased and reassigned is ‘shell city’- on a postcard and a billboard; and as an enormous poster on the edge of the city- beyond which is nothing. a bikini clad woman mechanically waves at us to join her in the sunlight and to walk in the waves. the perpetually shifting city rebuilds itself every night but this other place always stays. away.

all joy and laughter and pretty petty little things make up the musical ‘meet me is st louis’. in idyllic suburban st louis where the biggest show in the universe is being readied – the worlds fair. the two sisters vie to get married to their respective beaus as new york plays the part of the other place pulling them away just as their dreams begin to take shape. the big city where they will live in a flat away from everything that they know can never replace the pastoral friendliness of the small town that is anyway soon going to be the center of the world with its dazzling display of electric pavilions and neo classical splendor. judy garland’s voice quivers in the gorgeous ‘have yourself a merry little christmas’.

in a very different context- this time the steppes of kazakhstan- the theme is echoed. the suburban house is now a yurt where asa lives with his wife, her husband and their kids. his dream is drawn on the collar of his soldiers uniform. it is a yurt in the desolate landscape lit by the sun and the stars. tulpan is the girl he needs to marry to set up home and whom he will never have. the only eligible girl on the steppe. the city and the port where busty women will have their way with him and where he can be free (and has been) holds no interest for him. he has seen the world and settles instead for the dust storms, the sheep and the news of the world recited to him by his nephew rote from radio kazakh. stunning landscapes and lovely film.

‘a christmas tale’ was all it might have been if it was a hollywood weepie starring, i don’t know, diane keaton (?) as the dying matriarch whom the entire family gathers around to support and donate bone marrow to so that she survives. except that it was not. catherine deneuve plays the dying mother of a completely dysfunctional but strangely lovable family. a sister has banished a brother from the family and the mother has almost no capability of affection. more bergman than spielberg.

in code 46 delhi is a place for bat specialists and in shanghai in a sterile building called the ‘sphinx’ a woman is making fake ids for people to get out. an investigator who can read minds with a empathy drug finds her out and falls in love with her only to discover that she shares exactly the same dna as his mother. but more than the tale of love torn apart by the horrors of biotechnology gone mad, the landscapes were fantastic- the desert outside shanghai, the dark liquid lit city and the grubbiness of the ‘outside’ where people fall once they don’t follow the rules.

does solo live in this outside? a taxi driver originally from senegal in small town american where he meets william – another man on the edge of the american dream- who long for his family under cover. like ‘ a taste of cherry’ the pact is for the solo to drive william to a place outside the city where he is going to kill himself. solo find himself again in his family though and william disappears.

the ideal place for future man is an island. in ‘the possibility of an island’ the story of a very human comedian is told juxtaposed with those of his exact clones who have descended from him. they sit alone in a room surrounded by an empty landscape listening to the life of their ancestor- with its sexual obsessions, jealousies and fear of loneliness and death. eternal life has to be an island.

more novels: ‘the city and the pillar’ gore vidal’s really not that controversial gay love story. it seems so tame today but it must have created a furor when it was released. murakami’s ‘the wind up bird chronicle’ whose surreal intertwining stories make profound metaphors of everyday objects- like the deep well in which he finds himself. outrageous and hilarious is ‘duluth’ – another gore vidal. here two women die in a car caught in a snowdrift. one is reborn as a tv star who remembers who she was in her earlier avatar and the other as the heroine of a harlequin romance. somewhere along the way the narrative also picks up a sadistic blonde policewoman who likes to shave the pubic hair of mexican immigrant and a red spaceship shaped like a tack on the map of the city.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

photopost and descriptions : nai in the netherlands / 'the undisciplined city' in delhi

amsterdam station
the lloyd hotel

the whale

pier developments

lloyd interiors
the night walk

my room
the lobby at lloyds

the jazz center


amsterdam harbour developments
ainsley's room
dining room

the ship

to rotterdam

open city exhibition

the hotel

zus offices

morning rainy walk in rotterdam

maritime training institute / school


final presentation

modernist homes in rotterdam
rotterdam- this side of the bridge
the bridge
renzo piano

the luxor
housing across the harbour
the other bridge

rotterdam harbor (and a wedding)

cube houses

shopping on the central pedestrian street in rotterdam
walking in the rain
from my hotel window

the smell of garbage in the air really hits you when you step off the airplane after 7 days in the cold wet overcast cities of the netherlands. the nai hosted a workshop where 9 of us sat in conference rooms and discussed slums and social housing all day. in amsterdam we lived in style. the lloyd hotel designed by mvrdv with its dining room that shoots up 6 floors and the capital ‘d’ designer rooms. mine was on the top floor with a dormer window overlooking the harbour, prasad and rupali had the signature bathtub in the middle orange room while ainsley’s room became a bathroom with a turn of a wall.

the first day we met in a conference room in the new jazz center overlooking the city. ‘unsolicited architecture’ is an interesting turn of phrase. architecture that has no client but has a concern. on the first day we spoke to architects in the netherlands now but who originated in countries from around the world including brazil, colombia, south africa, china, indonesia and spoke of parallels and differences between policies and implementation in those countries. when a metaphor becomes the way in we see so many reciprocities. ‘disease/resource/ organism/ commodity… fine… but weapon???’

that evening we walked a long walk down newly developed piers along the waterfront where housing that ranged from tiny houses to enormous bulky brick dinosaurs protect inner courtyards and face out to the rain. across the water on some of the other piers was ‘the whale’ and an enric miralles housing project.

the second day we spent at the hotel and were visited by a few architects who had come to mumbai in september. 2012 architects showed us some of their work were kitchen sinks and windmill propellers become fa├žade cladding and a playground respectively. the ‘harvestmap’ locating local resources was a terrific idea.

that evening i saw my favorite building in the netherlands. ‘the ship’ by de klerk is a post office and a housing project on the outskirts of the old town. red brick moulded into an expressionistic sculpture with intricate details and perfect scale. while most of the other work in the netherlands was essentially about surfaces and floating boxes- here the building worked in all scales- form the urban gesture of the tower and perimeter block to the organization where different units combine together in complex ways to the delicate and exotic detail on the surfaces.

dinner that night was at a fancy restaurant in an old hospital- the ‘smart’ project. in a room nearby- art exhibitions and on the plate- rabbit’s foot.

the inner city of amsterdam is excruciatingly pretty and touristy in a good way. even the red light area and other such sleazy entertainment is safe and easy. i am not so sure whether i liked it more than the much uglier and grittier rotterdam where we went the next day. completely bombed out in the war the city is filled with the anonymous modernism of post war reconstruction. today it is even the site for so much contemporary avant garde architecture that the netherlands architecture institute set up its center here. and what a center it is. huge exhibition space (where the ‘open city’ exhibition took over the whole space) an archive that ole walked us through and the offices where had our meetings. on the first day we were told about the urban renewal plans of the state in the netherlands and the evening we met zus- architects who have squatted an old neglected skyscraper. they spoke of the tenuous relationship they share with city authorities and the original owners of the building and of the plans they have for saving the building from demolition- including opening an exhibition/art space on the ground floor off the street.

we were supposed to go for an architecture tour on thursday morning but were completely rained out. but still we ventured huddled under our umbrellas to the harbor and looked across at the new bridge and the renzo piano skyscraper. a water taxi took us then northwards for more walks down the windy piers and up the gigantic maritime university. later the mvrdv offices were close by and we walked through their projects around the world.

on the way back we went through the kunsthal- close second on my favorite buildings list. like corbusier, mies and some roadside mall have been put through a blender and remixed into a modern art museum. postcards and toys. the last conversation was about discursive space and blogs reared their illegitimate head again. perhaps i need to spend more time on this again.

the possibilities regarding what can emerge are promising. too many different agendas perhaps. dinner was at a lively moroccan restaurant.

the ‘free day’ was spent waling around the streets of rotterdam. hanging boxes (again) bridges, housing projects (like the cubes), designer shops and later supermarkets and clothing stores and rupali and ainsley go crazy shopping.

and then we are back for hardly a day and i am off to delhi for a workshop called ‘the undisciplined city’ organized by the center for policy research at the habitat center. a cross disciplinary exploration regarding the informal city- discussion revolved around the nature of policy and the difficulties it has capturing the dynamics of the informal or the ‘undisciplined’. solly deconstructed all attempts at clarification by extolling the values of obscurity. and screwed us architects in the process - or challenged us to find new modes of practice. i wonder sometimes whether the aesthetic rather than the functional role of architecture can allow that space of intervention where architecture is not about making and breaking but rather about creating new possibilities. is architectures role then addressing the genius loci / myth of a site as a mode of re-reading the city. is this the lesson surrealist games can have for imagining the city. isn’t that what our second year projects have been about? cyborgs / tarot cards / exquisite corpses… as methods of rereading existing situations in new ways. other conversations further simplified the city into mutually exclusive formal and informal binaries, but almost everyone felt the need for new ways of speaking. the second day we spoke of the jnnurm largely and its successes and failures. bureaucrats, economists, social workers, political scientists, urban planners and architects promised to speak to each other again- soon.