Monday, August 22, 2011

dahi handi at devipada

the pleasure of riding wild in an open back truck with your friends screaming and shouting to drumbeats; the cloudy sky, the intermittent rain, the mud caked on your t-shirt and shorts- a uniform in red, yellow, white and of course saffron. testosterone reeking in the air as the women wait on the truck waiting for the men to return. the men meanwhile form a mad throng of people- a sea from where human pyramids rise and fall in competition. winners are announced over the blaring microphone. and gifts of money by local goons and politicians are passed around. meanwhile, the big prize hangs high above with a garland and an indian flag, hung from a crane. 
the ground is the leftover of a slum that was moved onto the rehab building that forms the backdrop for the pyramids; the sale component will take the place of the ground. its image stands tall against the silver boundary wall on the highway.'ambrosia' it is to be called. not 'dahi' for the govindas.

Friday, August 12, 2011

plot park: pasta lane, colaba

on a long, thin plot among the warehouses and factory sheds of the pasta lane near sassoon dock- a plot once being used by kailash parvat restaurant as their kitchen reverts back to being a children's park. 

strand cinema: before and after

the once lovely strand cinema in colaba transforms into curtain wall anonymity. i remember the whimsical front facade with its circular openings. i stole a 'before' photo from the net. 

meeting friends at the airport

laurie, venu, nalin, roshan, kiran and lauries mother, on their way back to knoxville with the monstrous new airport being constructed in the background. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

london burns

every minute updates are sent from around the city about burning and looting. twitter.
violence erupts in so many of the place-names we memorised and walked through in a city that seemed to my naive tourist eyes to be an agreeable multicultural mix of people. 
'too good to be true', i thought to myself. 
was i somehow denying the real meaning of the surveillance cameras at every street corner watching every single move that anyone makes- in case... 
these turned out to be ludicrously ineffective when all it took for them to be defunct was a mask made out of a piece of cloth. 
young men rebel- as they will / should?
i do not know enough to comment. 

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

movie checklist

a movie checklist of the past few days. and yes, there are many. beginning with the anime: hayao miyazaki's two films. the first 'lupin 3: The Castle of Cagliostro' follows the adventures of the master thief and his sidekick as they save a princess from an evil relative in a gothic tower like fortress.' behind this fortress lies a treasure that turns out to be a half drowned roman city... in the second 'nausicaa: the valley of the wind' our heroine of the wind has a deep connection with the natural world. a call for harmony between man and nature that even sees the horrific as necessary for the survival of the earth. these being the insect world that has poisoned the atmosphere.
a third anime that i saw yesterday remixes some indian mythology and turns it into a mystical action adventure. 'rg veda' is the search by the five elemental spirits for the sixth to save the world from the domination of the evil warlord. all the characters have their own distinctive personalities and animation styles. 'ah my goddess' makes a teen romance of memory loss and racing between the gods and human beings. belldandy is a goddess from heaven in love with a mere mortal. some interstellar shenanigans and eventual resolution follow.
not quite anime, but one that makes the world animated. warsaw through mamuro oshii's live action 'avalon'. the ace player of the 'avalon game' is a woman who is in search of redemption within the world of the ruins that the game offers as an escape from the drab monotonous reality of trams and drab interiors. when she manages to reach the final level it turns out to be one in the contemporary city, finally out of the sepia tinted darkness of the earlier film like in 'the wizard of oz' perhaps.
two china films: the first was the beautiful new film by jia zhang ke 'i wish i knew'- a history of shanghai told through first person narratives of many who have lived through the traumatic history of the city. we connect from here to hong kong and taiwan where the stories continue. film clips also serve as evidence- but as does the city itself gorgeously photographed making sublime the incredible landscape of the city. the 'city of life and death' is nanjing during the japanese invasion of 1937. shot in black and white the film is a nonstop propaganda machine systematically documenting the horrors of rape and mass murder committed upon the Chinese by the invading forces. it is relentless and after a while a little tiresome.
some contemporary Hollywood thrillers- 'skyline' about an alien invasion that sucks the brains out of people. a skyscraper in downtown los Angeles serves as a prison from where there is no escape. in 'frozen'  a chair lift on a ski resort is the prison and instead of evil aliens we have wolves who can tear your flesh apart. in both films the only survivors are the helpless women. and 'the crow' in which Brandon lee exchanges his soul for that of a crow to avenge the murder of him and his girlfriend. a city of dark shadows and high rises. the crow leaps over rooftops and crashes in through glass panes. the only thrill in 'honey' is jessica alba gyrating her hips to hip hop. the film otherwise is an ordinary rags to riches tale about a hi[p hop dancer making it big in the music video world. missy Elliot guests.
the disintegration of a marriage and of love forms the story of 'blue valentine', the story of a passive aggressive man who falls in love with a stronger woman. the films flashes forwards and back between the wooing and the disintegration of the marriage over one weekend in a sci-fi styled motel room. Ryan gosling makes his bid for an Oscar nomination. the minefield of dynamics with a family is the landscape of the film version of 'cat on a hot tin roof' with paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor. the dramatic action takes place mostly in the plantation house of the family. it is perhaps too much of a stretch, but that does not stop me from trying to make a connection between the architecture of the house and the emotional terrain of the play. the top floor is the place where the lies are told; on the ground is where the truth finally comes to light; and it is in the basement that finally the father and son reveal who they really are and come to some kind of reconciliation. 'picnic at hanging rock' is not afraid to take a basic story and turn it into something else entirely. ostensibly about the disappearance of a group of schoolgirls and their teacher on a valentine's day picnic, the film in delicate sunlight as girls in white skip over a stream and stare at rock muses over the nature of beauty and youth, adolescence and sexuality, class and friendship.
radical politics gets a Hollywood musical makeover in milos forman's 'hair'. groovy people in new york sing and dance in central park against vietnam and american imperialism. a newbie from oklahoma on his way to the war falls under their spell. some genuinely funny and touching moments (like the physical test scene where men and women lust after white boys and white girls, but largely little silly fun.
 godard's 'weekend' screams out against consumer culture and the class divide and bad cinema by breaking all rules of convention. intertitles break up the narrative (?) and bodies pile up on multiple car crashes on a weekend drive. a road trip from some tripped out version of hell. a casual violence at every turn as husbands betray wives and vice versa and children kill off their parents.
the italian mobster film 'gomorrah' is set mostly in a monstrous apartment complex whose inner corridors, terraces and basements serve as locations for murder, and betrayal. starting off with the murder of mobsters in a spa, the film then follows four stories that spin off from the result of that killing condemning the innocent to a life and death of crime.
exquisitely drawn, the erotic anime 'the sensualist' makes a visual language of its own- referencing ukiyo-e with its flattened perspectives and delicate details. the symbolic fire/water/flower references might have been embarrassing if they were not so gorgeous to watch. the story involves the journey of a young man to sleep with a famous geisha and the help an older, more experienced 'sensualist' offers him.
in 'the angelic conversation', underlining the homoerotic content of Shakespeare's sonnets, derek jarman composes a music video for them. two men in slow hypnotic movement love one another, lose one another and long for one another. judi dench reads sonnets on the soundtrack.