Sunday, December 02, 2007

dancing in the dark

Once more unto the breach. I'm not sure what we've done to deserve the media we have, but since have them we do, I'm going to wonder when they're going to stop covering all manifestations of identity politics as an 'us v/ them' thing and start treating these things with both the seriousness and the sensitivity they deserve. Much of the coverage of the Aaja Nachle fracas [the film banned in two states because of a casteist line of lyrics in the title song] has decried the heavy-handedness of protesting forces, taken a steady stance in the 'freedom of expression' picket lines, decried the vote-bank politics that are without a doubt at the bottom of the issue, and generally made a lot of urbane, genteel noise. Today's Times of India and all its attendant glossy supplements are filled with opinions from people who have no idea what the fuss is about and have no notion of why the lines that were called into question were offensive at all.

And then you wonder why societies concerned with Dalit rights had to take the extreme step of getting a film banned to wake you up?

In the interests of clarifying my position, I disapprove on principle of banning anything just because it offends someone. I especially disapprove of what likely motivated Mayawati and her people into drawing attention to themselves [and the song lyrics] by slapping a ban on it. But I also have to wonder what might have happened had the offended parties who first noticed the line done the gentlemanly thing by, I don't know, sending Yashraj Films a polite letter about it, instead of flexing their muscle. In light of the production house's behaviour in the wake of the ban we must give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that their response would have been just as cringingly apologetic and promptly corrective as it has been over the last two days - but something makes me doubt that.

And yes, it offends me that a film print had to be cut like that at all. It really offends me that 'gorments' are sticking elbows and lathis into the matter of what a lyricist should or shouldn't write, what a film should or shouldn't depict, and what an audience can or cannot see. But I also see that I live in a country where virtually every culturally dominant force and media outlet, so alive to insensitivity and muzzling of expression when it happens to people they can identify with [almost always victims of white privilege, here or abroad], had no idea why a line about cobblers aspiring to be goldsmiths might have a hurtful history for some of their own people. Where journalists, poets and opinion-makers don't see what the fuss is about. Where all these enormously clever, influential people don't seem to understand that racism isn't what a dominant class decides it is.

It's really hard for me to feel like I or the art I patronise are being made the victim here.

--

More on the film itself soon, hopefully: needless to say [I have mentioned before that Madhuri Dixit = queen of my entire childhood, right?] I enjoyed it muchly. Having caught that seasonal SRK star vehicle Om Shanti Om last week, it made me laugh to see his storied star-power retrospectively pale in the light of the magnificence of La Dixit.

Friday, November 23, 2007

lest we forget

Treasons, Stratagems & Spoils is a new blog about sport: mostly football, some cricket, and quite a bit of attendant concerns. Do check it out if you have a moment to spare. It's by me.

not on hiatus

What part of WE GET IT is incomprehensible to Sanjay Leela Bhansali?



I've been occupied otherwise, have you noticed? With what I cannot tell you - but I will admit that my only activity of note these days has been buying vegetables for my mother, and I'm afraid my competence in that area is not yet worth a mention. [Other women go and ask, "Tamatar kaisa? Beans kaise?" and get an honest answer because they pick up the basket and start throwing the best ones in there. I go and ask "Tamatar kaisa?" and the vegetable vendor takes a sideways look at me and smiles, anticipates a windfall disproportionate to his wares because honestly, I don't know what a good vegetable looks like unless it's already cooked.]

Other than that my obsession with Bollywood has become a large, unmanageable thing: Mithun bore the brunt thereof on Wednesday night when I forced him to spend his evening watching Saawariya barely a while after a previous outing involving the equally self-involved No Smoking; my mother has been with me to see Dhamaal, Jab We Met, Loins of Punjab and Chak De India twice. And I'm sure I'm forgetting something over here.

[Saawariya is one disappointment after the other. Completely puts you off drapery. The shattering of Sonam Kapoor's grave, statuesque loveliness the minute she lets escape her tinkly THIS IS MY PRETTY ACTRESS LAUGH laugh escapes from her is akin - and I'm being kind here - to whatever finally broke Ozymandias. Ranbir Kapoor, as the heir to the legacy of the Kapoor clan that has done to Bollywood what the Bombay Times does for Indian journalism, does not disappoint, flying a full complement of vapidities as the flags of his fathers. But possibly the greatest tragedy of all was seeing Chak De India's Krishnaji reduced to a bouncer - a BOUNCER! - in this one.

When do Sanjay Leela Bhansali's complaints that people don't understand him and his work begin, incidentally? Extrapolating from past utterances I can hear the one about 'why does no one comment on the Mumtaz Mahal mural on the walls of my dream city OMG?!?!?!' already. I would like to be there to pre-empt this and other wails of angst by confirming the fact that as he no doubt suspects in his heart of hearts, our silence is compelled by kindness rather than ignorance.]

Still, into each film industry some rain must fall. As I recall it is still patronised by the mouthbreathers who did not recognise Jhoom Barabar Jhoom for the masterpiece it is. We make our own destinies.

More anon. Hope casual readers and passersby are all doing very well.

Friday, October 19, 2007

the rise and fall of the roman empire

Seen inked in black permanent marker over a window of a second-class general compartment:

you all SUCK.

JULIUS Rulez.

Monday, September 24, 2007

india you beauty

ONE. FIFTY. TWO.

suck on this, boca-river

The biggest derby in the world is on tonight, and I can't believe I'm going to be watching it. I promised myself when I started watching football that I wouldn't take it too seriously, and it has helped enormously in my appreciation of the game. But football is just me poking fun at other people, right? Unfortunately it's impossible for me not to feel overwhelmed by the fact that a) cricket has changed, that b) we have truckwads of money to spend on it, and c) b) may have something to do with the fact that d) India and Pakistan are in the finals of a ginormous money-spinner of a tournament.

Now lose the fugly uniforms and I might even stop rolling my eyes at how we have proved Simon Kuper wrong and forced our sport into the globalisation straitjacket. Not, sadly, in the schizophrenic but charmingly European way, which is as obsessed with local tradition and a preservation of ritual as it is with providing a free-market-approved, appropriately packaged experience, but in an altogether more unabashed THIS IS THE EVENT SPONSOR'S NAME EMBLAZONED ACROSS MY TRAINING BRA, IT BE RAH-RAH HIPPY-SHAKE TIEM NAO PLS! American way.

But oh hey, the cricket. It is sick how easy Yuvraj Singh is making it look, isn't it? It's like cricket has moved out of the realm of the wrists and on to the shoulders. Not entirely accurate, I know, but I think it's appropriate every time I take a look at his last few innings. I am so impressed by him and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and this entire culture of exceedingly brash but intelligent cricket that seems to be popping its cocoon under their aegis. I'm sure it has something to do with the Aussie dominance of the game in the last fifteen years [well, greater dominance than before] and their 'you don't like us, we don't care' approach to winning, but, in a rare departure from principle, I have to toe the detestable Times of India line and wonder if it doesn't have something to do with the fact that we are changing. For the first time in Indian cricket the mofussil boys have really taken on the world on their own terms, yes? Without the decadent old brahmins of the metros breathing down their neck. And it's charming and smart and more badass than you - alright, I - could ever imagine. Come on, guys, who does that to the Aussies?

Really happy for Pakistan, too, who look like they're setting their house in order after the maniacal goings-on over the last year. Can I also just say that I am really glad that we have seen the last of Inzamam ul-Haq? I know the guy's a lovely batsman, but he bored me to tears. To think this team was once captained by Imran Khan. Sheesh. Cricket is no fun without a crackerjack Pak team to haunt our footsteps at all times, so premature though it may be to welcome them back from the brink, I'm going to do it anyway. I'm hoping for a decent game tonight, and I don't think it will be a shame to lose a good match to the neighbours, especially considering that we beat Australia and South Africa [and England. LOL.] and - haha - Pakistan once already in a tournament that no one in India, not even the cricketers, were expected to care about. To be fair I'm still not sure it isn't a bit of a Mickey Mouse cup yet, but I think that's just my creaky prejudicial bones feeling the cold a bit. This is going to be huge, isn't it? Who knew that all this slogging could be so much fun?

I will be pissed off if we don't have a Test team three years down the line because of this, though.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

calling the mothership

Dearest Ma,

Happy birthday!

I wish I had a suitably illustrative story to start right off the bat, since birthday letters are always about some kind of transmission of wisdom from the giver to the recipient, but I'm not well-schooled in this whole wisdom business, and anyway, you have always had a firmer grasp of matters of common sense than most people your age. So let me start by declaring that I'm not going to bother telling you about exactly why I believe life is a precious gift, and that it is not a curse to live in interesting times, and how you should seize the day with both hands and live each minute you have to its fullest. You have probably already figured that out for yourself, and, knowing you, have also figured out that sometimes it’s also really, really rubbish, and boring, and hell is by and large just other rubbish, boring people. It’s true, unfortunately, and I’m afraid that as you grow older it just goes on being truer. There’s nothing we can do about that, and the sooner you learn to accept it and just lie low as the bad parts rumble past, and take up the good stuff as and when you come by it, the better it will be for you and everyone around you.

I remember what it was like being young, you know. I don’t know how much I’ve told you about this – we never seem to talk anymore! – but I had a wonderful, idyllic childhood. The nineties were an exciting time to grow up in India. Things were just pouring into the country; money, jobs, global brands, urbanity, international recognition. Good time to be a child. Of course, I had the opportunity to grow up in a big city, with big dreams. And I had the fantastic good luck to have enlightened, encouraging parents. Surely you’re not unfamiliar with the idea of growing up just wanting more; more of everything. Every generation of children does. And at some point of time we all wonder what we are doing to improve on the legacy our parents have left us – how we can go ahead and do something bigger and better than they, and how we can use the good things they taught us and escape the constraints they passed on to us, to prolong the glory of our world and time for a little longer.

Now whether we can or can’t is a matter of opinion. Perhaps you will not like to hear it, but Homer said, in the Odyssey, “Few sons indeed are like their fathers; most are worse, few better than their fathers.” Depressing thought, even if it comes from a blind and bitter old codger, isn’t it? [Do forgive me my old-fashioned habit of quoting the Classics; I’ve become rather set in my ways now.] But from the depths of my long endeavour to try and make this world a safer, happier place for generations of children to come, let me share with you a few handy hints to surviving in this rather dangerous new world we now seem to be inhabiting.

+ Drink at least three litres of water a day.
+ Waste a little time whenever you can reading. I know this will seem absurd to you, but trust me, you are at an age where you can afford to let go a little bit. I’m still around to run the show, you know. Make sure that it is excellent reading, though: life is too short for bad books.
+ Make sure to get yourself some regular exercise, even if it feels like too much to cope with.
+ Don’t spend too much time on the phone.
+ Side-partings, like horizontal stripes, are ugly. Never wear either.
+ Respect differences of opinion. [But not too much.] [This may be the foolishness of a doting daughter but please remember that you are still smarter than most people. It’s one of the things I made sure of before I let you go.]
+ Always remember where you come from. There is a long line of women behind you who, we now know, excelled at making the best of a bad lot and facing each of history’s challenges with an iron will and a determination to get and give happiness and self-respect at all costs.
+ Always remember where you are going. There is no such thing as getting ahead of yourself.


While I’m at it, I may as well also remind you that cheekiness is the province of truly small minds, and it is the mark of an excellent character to take a joke in good humour and sporting spirit. [It’s what the English colonialists taught us. That was all before your time, though.]

How strange it seems to see you growing up. It feels like just yesterday that you were a young woman, so carefree, so happy, so ready to be amused at everything I could say and do to provoke you into laughter. How time flies. I could, of course, have celebrated it the way I did last year, with random pictures of aesthetically pleasing young sportsmen, but since we’ve already established that, unlike other daughters, I am a Cool Daughter, I feel like I have nothing left to prove to you anymore. We no longer live in the same house and eat the same food and wear each other's saris [okay, admittedly I only ever did that once every three years] and laugh as one at the inimitably lame humour of the man of the house. [if you are reading this, hi, Dad! Your jokes are excellent and not lame in the slightest! I love you! Bye!] It may feel to you like we have grown apart in the last two years, but I assure you that this is not so. I have been there for you from the first hour of our acquaintance, and even as the years and miles grow to separate us, I will remain yours.

Among the many things I have learned from you, though, is that the times change, and we with them, and the only way to cope with the fact is to ignore it when it’s convenient, and embrace it when otherwise. We are not a race bred for consistency. So if you promise me that you will keep on going the way you’ve started, Mother, I promise that I will do my best to leave no stone unturned in your quest for a wonderful, happy, fulfilling life ahead of you.

Have a lovely day, and a lovely year ahead.

Never be afraid to tell me of anything that’s on your mind. Remember, I love you no matter what.

Yours in [really quite overwhelming] affection,
the filial unit.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

we are not. on first name. basis.

Hai guyz, I'm much better now after my double-barrelled shot of pure melancholy, although the thought of absent iPods still has the power to twist the knife in the gizzards now and then. But it's okay, you can stop passing the hat around and use the money for your own nefarious ends now. Thanks for all your sympathy and many hugs to you for sending good thoughts my way.

I thought I would return in a state of calm, empowered equanimity, but as it happens, I come in a state of pissed-offness. Why? Because Britney Spears has re-appeared in our lives, and subsequently eaten the media up. Or so the media [your average Fox/CNN/reliable web news sources] believes, for it calls her new avatar "fat," and "chunky" besides, and so chooses to expend its energies on bull about her non-performance at MTV's Video Music Awards two nights ago instead of reporting on like, real injustice.

I spent some time flicking over the comments and the outrage about everything from her clothes [which had me seeing red at their sheer porny fugliness] to her performance [lackluster] to the critical opinions, which run the full gamut, from 'the ho deserves to be smacked down, she's made money off us for years and now the time has come to cast her off, for she is deadweight passe ex-virgin now,' to 'awww, the poor baby, she doesn't deserve to be criticised so hard, she's a victim here!' pausing every few opinions or so to sigh or groan at the idea that somehow, because she has ill-advisedly spawned two children before the age of twenty-five and not had her third and fourth ribs removed from her torso as compensation for the change in her body shape, she is now fat. I'm amazed at so many people feeling like the IT'S BRITNEY, BITCH phenomenon is a watershed in their cultural life. I don't blame Britney Spears for being so awful: she has no competition and the constant infantilisation of pop culture and cultural consumers has made her top of the dung-heap from which we currently derive artistic sustenance. Her life is comedy. I'm sure she has every right to protest this, even if she or the bunch of suits who packaged her have taken away her options to get out of the glass jar in which she currently exists. I'll admit I laughed uproariously at the report that she responded to Keira Knightley's comments about "feeling sorry for Britney" with a "who's Keira Knightley?" because she has at least that one double-edged weapon, fame, in her arsenal, to hit out at the patronizing cycle of ridicule-sympathy-ridicule-sympathy spinning around her.

I roundly hate Spears' music and regret wasting so many minutes of my life at the age of fourteen grooving to it, and over all I think I would sleep better at night if the cult of Brit Brit just went away and took its little disciples, Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan, with it, so I am actually quite annoyed at blogging about this, as well as being forced into a position where I have to defend her detestable empire of vacuity because my humanity forces me to acknowledge that there is a person caught up in its centre. But as I was watching this do the rounds of the YouTube/feminist/culture/fan blogosphere over the last two days I felt the cold hand of fear clutch at my heart, because I thought to myself, my god, one day this acrimonious, vapid, deeply sexist culture war is going to blow up to its fullest extent to India, and there will be one more thing to obscure the problems of women dying and not being educated and not having control over their bodies, lifestyles, children or property, because it also sells. I mean, it's already here and no one has noticed, because I don't see anyone [apart from Aishwarya] expending too much time being outraged over the disgustingly classist, sexist, deeply hypocritical problem society seems to have with Rakhi Sawant, for example, but someone has got to be around to be righteously angry when we buy ourselves our own little blow-up doll and pretend like our money didn't go into it.

Phew, if you didn't read all that, I'm now reading Corner Of A Foreign Field and enjoying it two chapters in. Also, next up, Project Objectify!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

take a sad song and make it

This weekend I lost my iPod. It's been my constant companion over the last two years, a birthday/congratulations on your new top job/don't come back soon! present from my parents, one of the loveliest things I've ever owned. Now, on the cusp of a new turn of life, my demonic hands went and lost it in somewhere between airports. I hope whoever has it now treats it well, and loves the music in it at least a little bit as much as I have. I hope Santana's guitar will make their eyes sting in the middle of the night. I hope they will dance to the sound of Goran Bregovic's mandolin. I hope they understand English so that they will know where the words, "do not say the moment was imagined/do not stoop to strategies like this," come from, and hopefully what they mean. I hope their chests will swell appropriately at the sound of Puccini. I hope they will find it useful to put the A R Rahman playlist on repeat from nine to five on a dull working day.

Oh god, I thought, when I discovered what I had done. Does this mean I'm going to have to go out and meet people now? Will I have to relearn how to bear the great embarrassments of listening to music in public? Nobody does that any more. Music's biggest asset is its portability, the ability of its bassline to trump the sounds of traffic and keyboards. It should fit so snugly in your ears that it won't fall out when you're pounding the pavements in rush hour. You should be able to loop it endlessly. It should come out of your pocket. It should be civilised and non-imposable on the life of others.

But most of the music on my iPod was recorded in uncivilised times in uncivilised countries. If people could bear it then, I suppose I'll have to learn to bear it now. Most of the music on my iPod wasn't made with privacy in mind. They are festival songs, and film songs, blaring out of the middle of trucks in Bombay streets, and cinema theatres. Some are played by philharmonic orchestras, and some sung by sopranos who don't need a microphone to make themselves heard to an audience of five thousand. Some of them are part of eight-hour concerts in sweaty little blues bars by drug-fuelled trumpeteers and rock guitarists. Some of them are used to wake up every South Indian within ten kms of a village temple every morning at six am to this day. Some of them have travelled down the centuries and across continents. Some of them have changed the world.

Maybe keeping this to ourselves is not the way civilisation intended us to go, at all. If music really has the ability to break barriers, then maybe we should give in to our compulsion to listen to what other people are hearing, once in a while, just as we eavesdrop on their conversations and peek at the names of the books they're reading. Music is hawked so persistently at us that perhaps we should find ways to hawk music back at the hawkers. Maybe the ability to switch music off whenever we like has increased our tolerance for the sort of music that we're always reaching to switch off after half a minute.

Whoever it is who has my iPod, I hope you know the story about how, when Lennon and McCartney finished working on Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, they took the recording to the house of Mama Cass in the wee sma's, and flung her windows open and blasted the new songs out of her apartment, and that this is how her neighbours woke up in the dark, and raised their shutters, coming out one by one to listen to the sound of the changing times.

I hope you listen very carefully to my favourite songs. I hope the voice of the Beatles in your dreams makes you wake at four am and open your window, wishing that the neighbours would turn the lights on, look outside, and start to sing along when you teach them how to sing Hey Jude.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

memories longer than the road that stretches out of here



It’s been six years since the day we met in the Woods and hit it off almost immediately, although we didn’t know each other’s names until almost a year later. It’s been five years since we were trying to keep each other from the brink of insanity during college festival time, since we started traveling back and forth together, since we went to Three Flights Up with Ash and Sneharika and resolutely did not drink, and did not dance, or at least not very well. It’s been four years since we discovered what an absolute bitch of a world it is. Three years since we gave up on ever finding enough time to spend with each other. Two years since we’ve lived in the same city. A year since you came to visit.

I’m not going to recount the good times and the times of crushing ennui and despair, not going to talk about how you introduced me to Harry Potter and Blackadder and Bollywood B-flicks, except to say that we have had them, good times, bad times, ennui, despair, disdain, desperation, and I did read all four Harry Potter books over a single weekend in your house, and there was that night with the kootchie-kootchie Tarzan film that we persisted in watching in full, and there were the odd Parties of Doom at which we both ended up being thoroughly disgruntled, and Colaba and Andheri and Khar station and the malls of Hyderabad, and a lot of places in between. I could go on.

There’s never been enough time, in the last two years, but who’s to say there never will be?

You and me, Sunday driving, not arriving, on our way back home.

Bye, Bob. Now take New York by storm.

All my love.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

roswitha returns, predictably talks about sport again

Part I: Intelligent Cricket Feature Writing

Now what's all this nonsense about Dravid being a gormless incompetent for deciding to play it safe and go for a draw instead of a slightly more precarious win? What part of 'INDIA NOW HAS A SERIES WIN' is distasteful?

Romantics. Bah.

-- this is not to say that Dravid isn't a gormless incompetent. He is. But also? Series-winning captain.

Part II: In Conversation with Evil Manchild Kausha

Kausha: Hey, so I got to watch the Arsenal-Inter friendly at the Emirates in the flesh, because I am seriously way too cool to live.
Ros: Oh, yeah. This the one that Arsenal won, right?
Kausha: Right.
Ros The Arsenal Supporter: Against the Inter that then went on to thrash the hell out of Manchester United?
Kausha The United Supporter: Hi, wait a minute.
Ros: HAHAHAHAHAHA.
Kausha: In case you didn't notice, a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic was fielded in the United game.
Ros The Fan Of A Team Destroyed Near Single-Handedly By Zlatan Twice In The Last Season: Hmmnmm.
Kausha: Man. But that David Suazo, Inter's new striker? Good.
Ros: Don't TALK to me about David Suazo.
Kausha: Yes, I heard there was some tussle over which Milan club would sign him.
Ros: -- Milan had him. They signed him. And then he got unsigned and went over to Inter.
Kaushaa: Uhuh.
Ros: Bastards.
Kausha: Yeah.
Ros: ... I came so close to saying 'we' instead of 'Milan' in that sentence.
Kausha: I WAS WAITING FOR THAT.
Ros: I'm assimilated into the football hive mind.
Kausha: HAHAHAHAHAHA.


Definitely NOT my favourite person ever.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I only listen to Beirut for his back-up band.

I had a truly disturbing realisation the other day as I was listening to “The Velocity Of Saul At The Time Of His Conversion,” by Okkervil River. I abhor indie music.

Cue gasping and convulsions. Here is definitive proof of my ossifying into something crusty and old-maidish. There was a point of time when I took pleasure in “The Velocity...” and it’s quiet, reflective acoustic guitar, and lines like “Little needles of sodium unstitched the sky.” No longer – the very thought of needles of sodium unstitching the sky makes my fingers twitch and my headphones draw back a little in shock at the virulent hatred emanating from my ears. I am becoming one of those people who, were they forty and American, would not think twice before voting for Bush. Twice. I can see my future stretching before me: I will enter into a marriage of convenience, laugh away all attempts at converting any future leisure time into a period for education rather than entertainment, view excessive displays of sentiment from a state of grace beyond pity, cultivate a Humbert Humbertian attachment to an unattainable teenager when I am forty-five, and never have a change of opinion in my life again. But I couldn’t bear it – the haplessness of these young males [why is it always young males?] with their untrained nasal whines, unsurprising guitars and lyrics that attempt to back life into a corner in an attempt to be the first to articulate something too mundane for the rest of history to take note of. It’s a whole musical generation of Nick Hornbys. Unengagable with. But death is approaching with every breath; music should not be of a time-wasting nature.

--

On a point of genuine curiosity, which do you think is more hardass [by which I mean more likely to strike fear into the hearts of a distant army]: ‘The Ride of the Valkyries’ or the opening of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’?

Monday, July 16, 2007

OH COME ON

BE SERIOUS.

Well, considering the team is largely made up of men that turn out for teams like INTER. and BARCELONA. I guess a self-destruct was LONG OVERDUE.

Bitterness. Never have I supported a team through a tournament that was so deserving of victory.

Where have you gone, Gabriel Batistuta? A nation* turns its lonely eyes to you.

* -- by which I mean us drunken, swaying Malayalis holding on to our happy memories of Maradona.

Oh Zlatan, why couldn't you be Argentine?

Saturday, June 30, 2007

newsflash: world lacks imagination

All over the world, women are turning into Jane Austen freaks for the pleasure of escapism, Empire waistlines, and impossibly devoted and eminently suitable fantasies. I mean, what? Do most women really go no further than a Pavlovian reflex at catching a glimpse of a nice man when they read Austen? Really. I'm not trying to devolve that into a 'feminists v/s asshats' question. If you're going to blame Colin Firth and aggressive paperback marketing for the rash of Darcy-centric paraphernalia then, uh, shouldn't you be blaming market forces, and not literate adult women, for repurposing Austen into Regency romance?

I fell into the trap of expecting Austen to be a sympathetic romantic when I first read her, which is probably why I refused to count myself as one among her legion of fans in my early teens. It was a little disturbing to re-read Pride & Prejudice sometime after I hit voting-age and find that every word of it rang hilariously, scathingly, frighteningly true - if you ignored the darkly frowning sexpot that comes up to untie the Gordian knot for our heroine, rescuing her from almost-certain poverty and social ostracism that life as a single woman might have reduced her to.

Reading this thread at Pandagon, in response to Traister's rather single-note article, was quite fascinating. Some people blogged in with very cogent objections to the classist Austen worldview. There's no denying that, in taking the comic tone, Austen limits herself to operating within the acceptable spheres of feminine respectability, both for herself and her protagonists. I hardly think this discredits her powers of imagination. The horror of having Elizabeth die as a penniless spinster-governess, uncared for and unloved by some tiresome family of rich brats, must have loomed a little too close for Austen's comfort to have her thrash it out in a book. There are limits to everyone's ability to laugh in the face of dread.

But surely Austen isn't yet so single-purpose that women now seek nothing in her books apart from the comfort of a mannered, self-conscious society and hunks in top hats. Or has the world changed all that much over in its individualistic, liberated corners that the real fears of poverty and social disapproval don't haunt the lives of the novel-reading class of women any more? I can't believe that. Degrees of female freedom may vary, but surely no society is quite so liberated and equal opportunity that reading P+P at a certain age isn't discomfiting for a single woman in possession of a modicum of self-awareness? And not just in a touching, hilarious, 'oh god, I know that, that's my family, and my sister, and my neighbours' sort of way. I think that's what Bridget Jones was supposed to highlight, in the way Bridget obsessed over dying alone and being found three weeks later half-eaten by Alsatians. But Bridget Jones' Diary was, at its heart, a well-meaning, happy little fable of the underdog winning the day, while P+P has a hard, immovable core of unpleasantness that even the feather-light epilogue [house! servants! non-embarassing connections!] need not dislodge, depending on what time of the night you're reading.

And as with most institutionalised suffering, it just seems so pointless. Chattering relatives. Disheartened parents. Suspicious co-workers. Overly fresh male acquaintances. Complete lack of social mobility. Institutional disapproval. All of which are much harder than a sheltered, genteel existence can teach you to cope with. And for what?

I don't like Darcy. He's an almighty cop-out. But he has his uses, and we all recognize that. No one, least of all a reader with the slightest respect for comedy, can blame literature for trying to bring a modicum of order to life.

Sheesh. And they say nice guys have a job of it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

does he makeit up as he goes along?

Someone on a social networking site that shall go unnamed insisted on calling Disney's favourite pirate 'Caption Jack Sparrow,' in complete innocence of the implications.



---

"You look somehow familiar... Have I threatened you before?"

Jack : "Why is the rum gone?"
Elizabeth : "One, because it is a vile drink that turns even the most respectable men into complete scoundrels. Two, that signal is over a thousand feet high. The entire Royal Navy is out looking for me, do you really think that there is even the slightest chance that they won't see it?"
Jack : "But why is all the rum gone?"

"He was actually telling the truth!"
"I do that quite a lot. You people are always surprised."

"Nobody move! I've lost my brain!"

"Permit me to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket."

"You look somehow familiar. Have I threatened you before?"

"Nobody move! I've lost my brain."

----

No, really, don't even bother, I know 3 was really bad, I watched it last Saturday. But let's not even try and underestimate the power of the Depp. As with Baldrick's trousers, nothing good may ever come of it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

jhoom barabar jhoom

If what follows is tl;dr, a summary: Wow, I had an outrageously good time. After all, a couple of good yarns, a dinky dress or two, and the cobra dance. Is there anything else in life worth paying attention to? Overload! Overload! I FEEL SO ALIVE.

---

Full Story:

A hundred years from now, Bollywood will not exist.

Indian cinema will implode and morph into something we can only dream of at present. It will become something organic and edgier, perhaps. Independent, regional cinema will flourish again. We will give ourselves over to our traditional strength, telling well-plotted, emotionally honest stories in polished, complex ways, and be internationally renowned for it.

I know this because I have seen the future. It isn't Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, but it's around the corner from it. It's so close I can almost touch it.

Having seen a couple of brave, partially successful attempts at making an honest industry of Bollywood over the last month, like Metro and Cheeni Kum, I feel confident that we can only get better at keeping our shit together. In the meanwhile, we marvel and laugh at surreally enjoyable meta-Bollywood. Now nothing pretends to be real anymore. This isn't the year of the blockbuster meta-film, I know, because JBJ only follows on from its predecessors, Main Hoon Na and so on, but it is perhaps the best example of its kind in modern Bollywood - because it employs all the weapons in its arsenal without the sly deprecation and insincerity of the Khan vehicles of the last couple of years. There's neither cynicism nor sentimentality at work here. It's not a film about its stars, although stars it has aplenty. It's not about its locations, although there is some glorious work in Paris, Agra and London on sight here. You're not expected to treat them as something worth the ticket price, they're background. It's not about overtones, underlying meanings, or central themes. Its about story and song and the accidents of this big old piss-up in which human beings operate.

And it's Bollywood 1, rest of world 0. Bigtime.

It's annoying that people like Preity Zinta [hi, Lindsey Lohan at 30] couldn't be bothered to look interested for the length of the film, nor yet that some sagging in the script in the second half makes it slightly cumbersome in comparision to the first half. I'll pick Shaad Ali over Farhan Akhtar or - who is that other Yashraj disciple who tries to do the same thing? Nikhil Advani? - for writing, vision and craft. His lightness of touch is amazing. Apart from the moronic closing sequence, a counter-intuitive shot of his sutradhar [a truly hideous Amitabh Bachchan] pulling all the threads together for his pea-brained audience, I can scarcely think of an instance when he just didn't let the stories tell themselves. Because this is a movie about storytelling, too. The two main characters are on a train station talking at each other for most of the film [and involved in a gigantic dance-fight for the prize of the 'Mr and Miss Southall' title for the rest of the time. Can anyone be serious about hating dance-offs?] The song sequences are masterfully balanced between outrageous and endearing, and the driving bass and superb choreography feel really helps.

It's brilliant. For once I didn't feel sick about how overrated Abhishek Bachchan is. He was shaky in the first five minutes or so, but the later sequences have him really get under the skin of his character, a loud, smart-mouthed trickster whose signature line is, "Class hai mujhe." [His ringtone is a sexy female voice purring 'Ey, handsome.' He sleeps under a Chelsea FC duvet. I damn well wish Jose Mourinho had agreed to that proposed special appearance in this film, it's the only thing that would have added to its awesomeness.] Lara Dutta's great, too - she mixes her accents up here and there but they're all freakishly convincing, and her comic timing is excellent. And the second half contains perhaps the best portrait of subcontinental expat life I have seen in Indian cinema, because it isn't afraid of tempering affection with wit and snap, and thankfully doesn't fall back on the age-old Bollywood trope of poking fun at teh_phorenerz!! to prove Indian superiority.

And that, Karan Johar, is how you make an NRI film for adults.

Bye bye, Bollywood. We'll always have the memories.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

chandler, heyer, wodehouse, and hurting hands

“What are you doing here? What have you come for?”

“Work,” said Psmith, with simple dignity. “I am now a member of the staff of this bank. Its interests are my interests. Psmith, the individual, ceases to exist, and there springs into being Psmith, the cog in the wheel of the New Asiatic Bank; Psmith, the link in the bank’s chain; Psmith, the Worker. I shall not spare myself,” he proceeded earnestly. “I shall toil with all the accumulated energy of one who, up until now, has only known what work is like from hearsay. Whose is that form sitting on the steps of the bank in the morning, waiting eagerly for the place to open? It is the form of Psmith, the Worker. Whose is that haggard, drawn face which bends over a ledger long after the other toilers have sped blithely westwards to dine at Lyons’ Popular Café? It is the face of Psmith, the Worker.”

At last, a Wodehouse I can appreciate; nay, verily adore. It is the face and form of Psmith that accompanied me on my recent visit to Kerala, so full of green growing things, temples and the kindness of relatives, and unlike with previous attempts at knowing and loving Wodehouse [Jeeves and Wooster – sadly flat unless enacted by the great Fry and Laurie; Blandings – largely falling well short of the standard set by the terrific, pitch-perfect “Lord Emsworth & The Girlfriend”] and did not disappoint in the least.

Psmith is the sort of character who can keep you company day in and day out as you ride your daily commute to your prestigious clerical job – and what job isn’t, these days, unless you’re the sort of person who gets paid to create something other than code? – and wonder at the comfort and stability of an undocumented life. Psmith is there to help you grow older without realising it. Like all good comedy, I fancy. Psmith is what the Rajesh Khanna character in Bawarchi would be if he lost the annoying three-fourth trousers and sanctimonious manner. After all, none of us really know what the hell we are talking about.

My waking hours have been filled with mid twentieth-century literature [and honest toil, which would not take very long to blog about] of the despicable, cheap-thrill sort. I’ve resigned myself to the nightmares and taken Raymond Chandler up wholeheartedly again. I read The High Window and The Lady in the Lake and The Little Sister and have grown fonder and fonder of That Man, Philip Marlowe, with his gigantic soft spot for humanity and his constant struggle to keep laughing at himself. I don’t understand why mainstream literature courses still undervalue Chandler. Studying Salinger over Chandler should be made illegal. I don’t understand how [or if] people go through modern American literature classes without studying Chandler’s California. It is said that Quentin Crisp introduced Armistead Maupin to a friend as, “This is Armistead Maupin, he invented San Francisco,” and if there is any invented Los Angeles that deserves to stay alive in imagination it is Chandler’s LA.

I’ve also been reading some Georgette Heyer. ‘The Grand Sophy’ was ludicrously enjoyable until about three-quarters in, when our Regency heroine, a young woman of singular talent and competence, walks into the mouth of hell [or what they called regular London back then] to recover a debt for a young cousin and encounters the – usurer, I suppose, is the right word. What follows is a chapter of the most poisonous anti-Semitism I have ever read in my life – beaky noses, greasy palms, and other less pleasant stereotypes. The book’s first edition? 1950. I suppose this is what Jane Austen called a meanness of understanding. The rest of the book was ruined for me, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to pick it up again.

And all this because my wrists are beginning to warn ominously of the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome, which means sitting back and typing only as much as required to earn my honest wage. Thankfully football season is over, so the compulsion to blog does not war with medical necessity [and the talented little Azzurrini went the way of every talented Italian side ever and crashed out of their Baby Euro championship or whatever. And RM won La Liga. Can we say ‘bollocks’ please.] I could have celebrated my return to the blogosphere with the story of my harrowing wait for medical attention at Hyderabad’s most prestigious hospital, but if you’re at all familiar with this blog it should be fairly evident that I try to exercise discernment in matters of reality.

Ouch. Now to bed. What have you been reading?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

an irregular shot of cutting-edge media criticism

- In which we confess that watching Spiderman 3 gave us a real blinding headache, in spite of our puzzling, solitary crush on Hollywood's answer to Luna Lovegood, Kirsten Dunst. We think she has immense screen presence, and isn't half as annoying as that other young stunner who expects to be taken seriously, Scarlett Johansson. Tobey Maguire: no. Thomas Haden Church: why? James Franco: it pains our heart to thus disapprove of the charming grin and the crinkly eyes, but no.

None of you can act. Stay in Room 101 forevermore.

It's not that we have a problem with emo!Spiderman. Far from it. We loved emo!Superman in 'Superman Returns' and the inherently emo!Batman - yes, that would be Bruce 'My mum and dad are dead, and now you must die!' Wayne - gets our ears a-tingle. There is not a single excuse for being boring, even if your inexplicably sky-high popularity means that you will reel the suckers in to come see your matches every weekend (sorry, must have channelled Jorge Valdano there for a minute) come see your movies every Friday.

- We can't usually be stirred to have an opinion of much of what passes before our boredom-blinded eyes on the telly, but Avril Lavigne's new guff (or relatively new, we don't really watch VH1 all that often) does make us want to do exactly what she claims to do to young women everywhere: kick her arse. We can't work up the annoyance to do that to that Shakira&Beyonce belly-dancing monstrosity everyone is drooling over, since we are still covering our eyes, pained and horrified by the gratuitous bump and grind of it all.

- We have no idea why we are extremely, irrationally sad to not be the first people to read Michael Chabon's new book.

- And end with the confession that 'we,' in this case, is really just me.

- Also, Aishwarya might be coming to Hyd! On May 23rd! Which probably means neither of us will live to blog the morning after, having torn each other apart for supporting opponents during the Champions' League final.

Finally, pictorial representation of what we (my roommates and I) have decided to follow as our main plan of action to secure a home of our own over the next couple of months.

(if you believe that this is us me pandering shamelessly to my vociferous female football-loving readership, you will not be a hundred miles from the truth. But I really enjoy the sheer drama and fortuitous composition of this snap, too - the rain, the splayed hands, the hideous uniform proving that there are some cases in which it does not actually blind fans.)

End emo!boy post. Next on agenda: actual content.


current musix: dhoom 2 - touch me, don't touch me.

if this blog has any readers who, having once listened to the d:2 ost, have successfully broken themselves out of the debilitating and soul-destroying habit of putting it on repeat, please get in touch asap.

Friday, April 27, 2007

pop music is shallow. discuss.




In a world of Grammy-winning smooth-edged dudes finding new ways to talk about their sexual prowess even as they address their ditties to their dirty babes, it's refreshing honesty to see a young man jumping around waving a lightsaber screaming 'why don't you like me, why don't you like me?'

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

dispatches from planet cretin

We are house-hunting again. Every classified we have read has been scrupulous in indicating that they only want tenants of ‘decent family.’ How many more generations, I wonder, before stipulations for an ideal tenant include the really important requirements, like personal hygiene? Or no screaming children? Decent families always seem possessed of screaming children, as far as I can tell. ‘Social menace’ obviously means very different things to different people.

In a bid to save ourselves the embarrassments of the last such exercise we undertook, flatmate #1 rang up the agent who took us to a house that we felt was livable-in, and asked him if they had any restrictions on their ideal tenant profile. The agent said no. #1 asked if they would object to us having friends over. The agent said no, and then amended his statement with, ‘…but no boys must come to visit.’

#1 asked, “Why can we not have boys to visit?”

The agent asked her, “Well then, how about if I came to visit?”

We hung up and crossed the house, and the agent, off our list.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

dakshineshwar


The odour of sanctity in Dakshineshwar is the chana dal and puri breakfast that is sold in stalls all the way leading up to the temple.


The hibiscus is odourless, so it figures.



More to come. It's a Canon Powershot AD550, incidentally. Thanks for all the help. :)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

try digging yourself out of this one, greg

Ohoho. Wow. This is going to take the whole shebang apart. Just when Greg Chappell, India coach, critic and hater-at-large said a couple of things that may or may not be true but sound extremely plausible about how hard attitudes in the Indian cricket team suck and you thought the BCCI was going to get around to talking of taking note, someone rained on the snark-parade. And this isn't your snark-for-snarker Sourav Ganguly, or our perumal of belaboured dignity Rahul Dravid. No, it had to be Sachin Tendulkar.

Whether or not you would cross the street to spit on this particular stand-in for a cricket team if they were on fire, you've got to laugh. I'm part of that half of India that would worship Sachin Tendulkar whether or not he went out and scored ducks from now to eternity in every game he played, and whether or not he bullies three hundred of our best and brightest little chickens into submission in the confines of the dressing room. If he says that he's hurt, then goddamnit, those who hurt the little wonder must pay. (Why am I so fond of choking whiners?)

It's really a good thing that Greg Chappell seems as enthusiastic about staying as Sourav Ganguly staring the opportunity for a cheeky single in the face.

Having said that, I would probably pay good money to read a book full of Chappell's vitriol. It's psychologically acute, refreshing and, if not exactly oozing class, displays stark signs of an intelligence that is painfully lacking in cricket babudom.

Friday, March 30, 2007

* chants: 'little pakistani fingers, little pakistani fingers...'*

OH MY GOD PLEASE SURGICALLY DETACH ME FROM THIS COMMERCIAL. I'm watching it so often that it is impacting my social and professional life in a detrimental way.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

project objectify: the mid-level club that could

World Cup, what World Cup. Allow me, instead, to return to the cruelly neglected Project Objectify, this time to celebrate the overflow of hawtness from one of Italy's least annoying football clubs, the entire squad of ACF Fiorentina.

Florence is one of the birthplaces of football. We do know for certain that it is where the especial obsession of millions of Italians (and a few others) began. Your particular favourite brand of it, especially if you aren't Italian, is likely to spring from Turin, whose biggest contribution to world culture after FIAT is currently kicking around in Serie B, or Milan, which is - well, the less said the better, or Rome, where Lazio and Roma make for what is perhaps the most exciting, often disturbing, rift in football loyalties in Europe.

Fiorentina, in the meanwhile, are those big gormless dudes who never elbow in anywhere on the big prizes or the big controversies.

Of course, all of this changed over the last season. Poised on the brink of an entry into the Champions' League, the team also immediately balanced out all the good karma by earning itself a massive fifteen-point penalty in the rigging scandal that went on all through Italy's summer o' love at the World Cup. By the end of the scandals and muckracking, it was pretty much devastation. Everyone thought they would be lucky to escape relegation. Certainly they didn't seem to have much going for them when the season began. A massive, talented striker whose astounding goal record over the last season appeared to intimidate precisely no one, a moody, unpredictable strike partner who'd famously been thrown out of Chelsea for hitting the coke, and a bunch of good-looking youngsters with no experience.

Sad story?

Let's look at these ones instead. At the Italy-England U-21 game in the new Wembley, the unquestionable stars of the show were the dreadfully cute and dreadfully dangerous Riccardo Montolivo, whose entry into the Azzurri proper seems to be a matter of time (and very little time, if they know what's good for them) and Gianpaolo Pazzini, the tiny hat-trick scorer and funny face-maker who had all of Italy heave a sigh of relief at the sudden brightness of the national team's strike prospects. We could look at Sebastien Frey, possibly the best goalkeeper available to France today, not even excepting Gregory Coupet. We could look at Reginaldo, who has quietly been demolishing defences in Serie A while the Big Clubs fall over themselves looking for more famous and expensive Brazilians.


We could look at Adrian Mutu and Luca Toni, who get paid less than half of what Inter Milan pays its strikers and manage to perform almost every bit as well. Scowly, temperamental young Mutu, who at one point seemed to give up on his career every other month, is actually having a brilliant season. Luca Toni is football's most spectacular late bloomer, a man who once scored thirty-one goals in a league where netting fifteen is a huge accomplishment. Or Tomas Ujfalusi, who -- well, who recently got himself kicked off the Czech team for bringing in his birthday with beer and prostitutes. But as we were saying.


All super. All Fiorentina. All hanging rather spiffily together.

A sense of non-entitlement virtually unknown to every other big club in Italy must have something to do with it. (As must sensible salary caps.) Fiorentina have fought back from negative fifteen to sixth place, looking fitter and leaner than most clubs sitting ahead of them in the league table. Might they make it to a Champions' League spot again? I hope they do. I can't think of a worthier Medium-Size-But-Almost-There Club.

And they wear purple. Come on, how can you not love a team that goes out in bright shining violet jerseys and slices up the opposition anyhow? And they're coached by the super-smart Cesare Prandelli. He may not wear Armani as well as Jose Mourinho does, but he used to be able to get Alberto Gilardino to score. How's that for talent.


Spammistic adoration for an ex-cokehead and a man who almost left football to be a truck driver? Why, you must have my evil twin Crosswitha in mind.

ETA: Toni, Toni, Tonigoooooooooool. * massive grin *

current musix: amadou et mariam - senegal fast food. i <3 this song.

Friday, March 23, 2007

boo, bah, bindia

"No, silly billy, I'm just pretending."

If India lose against Sri Lanka today, what are the odds that these sportsmen would turn up for team practice at least as often as they do for Brylcreem photoshoots?

Given favourable odds on the above, might it be better for Indian cricket in the long run to hope that India lose today?

At a guess, what percentage of sensible Indians will wish they were Sri Lankan for a day?

Just how cruel is fate to do this to Sachin Tendulkar?

--

(Everyone who at one point of time asked me why I liked Italian football heard that it was for the drama. Calcio has nothing on Pakistani cricket, though. I give up on you, Luciano Moggi.)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

300

Bitch, please.


'Come to the dark side. We have shiny.'



Perverse as it may be to spend a precious couple of free hours on a business trip in a foreign land before an iMax screen, surely to do this for '300' can only match the levels of insane contrariness assumed by, say, a bunch of buff dudes out to kill all the Persians in the world ever. NB: I am perverse. But oh my goodness, if I could manage to explain to you how very very bad 300 is, I might be proud of my descriptive abilities. I'm not. I can't. The words, they are lost.

What is awesome about this film? Nothing. What do you gain from two hours of watching a film that looks exactly like a CGI animation even though most of it is live action? Nothing. What in hell is up with all those leather speedos? See above.

I could go on. I could try and nail all the mind-bogglingly racist, sexist and ablist underpinnings - if something so frothy could be said to have those at all - of it. I could try and type up a statement about art imitating art, or about why it's immensely cheesing off to have to be dragged through yet another film about ancient Greece that so thoroughly fails to recognize that it was a different civilisation from the one that we live in, and that whatever common qualities have defined humanity since the dawn of time, humanism is not one of them (write it 300 times in your notebook and get it signed by teacher in the morning). This would just break the pointlessness scale. Let me just say that I have never laughed THIS HARD at a film in my life. Really, for the first time ever someone had to turn around and hush us up. "My heart is filled with hate." "...okay!"

Like cholera, it is a shame to think that 300 exists in a world that could so easily have prevented it.

(Caveat: I have no clue about this Frank Miller guy. But Thermopylae is one of the only stories of macho do-or-die heroics from the classical era that I can stand. well, not for a while yet, now.)

--

America very large. Tap water safe to drink. Wish you were here. Bai, R.

Friday, March 09, 2007

when i get nervous i blog too much

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Misquotation isn't a bother as long as it doesn't detract from the charm of the original. 'Make me pure'? 'Make me pure'? How is this a funnier quote than the accepted translation of 'chaste and continent'?

You fail, automated Google quotes. Pull it from somewhere with a bit more cred next time.

Make me chaste and continent, but not yet. Heh.

Okay. Okay. Off now to go and prepare for international travel. Chaste and intercontinent. Stressed, who's stressed? People who forgot to give their jackets to dry clean a week ago need to be stressed, that's who. Not me.

Here, have some poetry.

--


And as she laid the moonlit armour on the sand
It chimed;
And the sound that came from it
Followed the light that came from it
Like sighing
Saying:
Made in Heaven.

And those who had the neck to watch Achilles weep
Could not look now.
Nobody looked. They were afraid.

Except Achilles: looked,
Lifted a piece of it between his hands;
Turned it; tested the weight of it; and then
Spun the holy tungsten like a star between his knees,
Slitting his eyes against the flare, some said,
But others thought the hatred shuttered by his lids
Made him protect the metal.

His eyes like furnace doors ajar.

When he had got its weight
And let its industry console his grief a bit:
"I'll fight,"
He said. Simple as that. "I'll fight."

And so Troy fell.

- from "War Music," Christopher Logue's adaptation of the Iliad. One of the defining forces of my teenage life.


current musix: faudel, cheb khaled, rachid taha - abdel kader.
the depth of my love for rachid taha's voice is beginning to disturb me.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

il giorno delle donne



I wasn't planning on blogging today, but just as the day was about to wind down, my favourite football club, that I love enough to receive 'notifications of special offers' from, sent me an email offering, on the occasion on International Women's Day, a discount on ... women's Milan wear. There is a dinky range of women's size tees, and other items of feminine comfort, such as duvets, sheets, and jewellery.

All this from a club whose president famously opened up his country to international conglomerates by saying, 'after all, we have the most beautiful secretaries!' Who, let it be known, spoke of negotiations with a politician of the female gender by describing to journalists how he turned on his 'Playboy' tricks and English-speaking charm.

The charm, it spreadeth.

But those who can separate il Presidente from his team - which, amorally enough, I succeed in doing enough to root for them at all times - are welcome to go and buy themselves red-and-black striped duvets! After all, one of the gender myths that we attempt to break every living day is the famous "women's touch" that behooves us to purchase tasteful colours and designs. Go ahead, break out the big fat rossoneri stripes. Let no one say your womanliness prevents you from indulging in the ugly.

And remember Carolina Morace, the first woman ever to coach a professional men's football team in Italy (and possibly, although I am far from certain of it, in Europe). Carolina, a gifted footballer and captain of a smashing Italian women's team in her day, was invited to coach the Serie C1 side Viterbese, and resigned after only three games due to mounting media pressure and an insane club president (One begins to imagine that insane club presidents are rather a type, in il bel paese) . Today, Carolina is a TV pundit, one of the few women respected in Italian football. But not enough. Not yet.

And don't, as you roll your jeans up and break out the coffee for the upcoming World Cup, forget Mithali Raj, Jaya Sharma and Karu Jain.

ETA: While on footer, Champions League blogging is on!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

a genuine question

Dear chaps, I am clueless as to how one goes about selecting a digital camera for oneself. Any suggestions/comments/ideas are welcome.

Can I get one for under 10K? Under 12, perhaps?



Gratuitous pic of the day:

"Don't be silly, Frankie. 19-year-old Spaniards don't eat vegetables."

Monday, March 05, 2007

"you can have the afternoon off when you die."



SWITZERLAND ACCIDENTALLY ATTACKS LICHTENSTEIN.

A headline worthy of that master of cunning genius, Blackadder. I have lingered amidst the words of the great and good to try and find an expression for the utter absurdity of the human condition for the last few days, but here is a case of journalism coming up trumps over literature. Or, if you prefer, of sitcoms.

Percy: I must say, Edmund, it was jolly nice of you to ask me to share your breakfast before the rigours of the day begin.
Blackadder: Well, it is said, Percy, that civilised man seeks out good and intelligent company, so that, through learned discourse, he may rise above the savage and closer to God.
Percy: Yes, I've heard that.
Blackadder: Personally, however, I like to start the day with a total dickhead to remind me I'm best.


current musix: a perfect circle - the fiddle and the drum.

Wow. I've never been as big a fan of this band as some other people, but they manage to nail covers. This is almost better than their dark, gloomy refashioning of 'Imagine.'



Monday, February 26, 2007

simranderella and other stories



Circumstances caused me, last week, to watch a film I had last seen in 1995 – that cult family drama called ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge.’ I hated it passionately at the age of eleven, foolishly having characterized it as peddling “too much drama.” In the interim, my heart has aged, and not too well, so I now begin to understand what my father, when accused of having shed uncharacteristic tears at some point in the film, shrugged and said to me, “I’m growing old.”

The film has aged very badly too. The costumes are vomit-worthy, the music is tinny, the hairstyles trapped in the unfortunate nineties-with-an-eighties-hangover time warp, the overall look and feel clumsily lurching between hyped-up bucolism (bucolicity? Bucolicness? What did I just make up?) and drab, dated suburbanity. I don’t know why this is, since that particular cinema house from which this film comes has managed to merge these styles with more success even in considerably earlier films – ‘Lamhe’ comes to mind. A question for the ages?

Anyway, as I seem to be trying hard to confess, the film was a tad more palatable this time around. It tries, as much as its male protagonist, to please everyone, and if this isn’t entirely possible, well, the filmmakers have had eleven years to get over it. I have come around to the opinion that this is not tantamount to complete dishonesty. Perhaps my own state of mind – having just come off a weekend of watching the pathetic ‘Mujhse Dosti Karoge’ and some uninspiring football – had something to do with it. It’s not a family drama so much as a fairytale, and all the singing and dancing and screen time given to the hero-dude’s sycophantic attempts to woo the father of the bride didn’t in the slightest obscure the fact that it’s a female folk tale. Simranderella. I don’t overly care about the morality of the hero’s decision to ‘stay and fight’ or whatever dudely preoccupations he seems to reflect when he insists that he won’t elope with her. She is interesting. Here you have an obviously smart, repressed woman browbeaten into submitting to her father’s insane forced-marriage fantasies. Travel opens her mind; she meets clever, rich adorable young people on her tour of Europe and realizes that what she wants is completely different from what her father wants. Power conspires most cruelly against her.

I think her romance is almost incidental to her misery at having to suffer these apparently reduced circumstances. So her fiancé is a bit of a prick, but what would it matter if he himself was as clever and rich and adorable as the rest of them? He’s just so completely besides the point. The heart of the matter is revealed in one of Farida Jalal’s better moments in the film. In spite of her mother’s best efforts to equip Simran for a life that is entirely self-determined, both mother and daughter become powerless when they realize that they have been living in a fantasy, and that while lying in wait for the right moment for Simran to spread her wings – or something – they have allowed themselves be caught up in a cycle of endless compromise, vicious and self-perpetrating. “When you were born, I promised myself that in spite of having buried my own hopes and dreams, I would let you live for your own.” (I paraphrase, bear with me.) In a flash, you see how it’s all going to go down, and you can imagine Simran, having given in to social pressure, having the same conversation with her own kid twenty years later, telling her apologetically that she hoped her (daughter’s) life would be different from her own.

Then the moment is buried in a load of self-denying crap, and then the hero shows up and everything gets kind of thrown out of focus. But for the rest of the film the romance was sidelined for me, so much so that even the rather crudely-created, “Can I take your property away from you?” vibe with which Raj approaches the dad-in-law when asking for Simran’s hand in marriage didn’t make me vomit. I thought to myself, well, but this is brilliant. If a rather large cheque, or an airline ticket showed up on the doorstep of the household, waving at Simran, she’d just as easily be saved. She’s young and divided and unsure of herself, but she knows what she wants. Her only problem is that she also believes that it’s not as important as what the others want. She has no problems with running away. She goes her previous blockbuster avatar, Madhuri Dixit in ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun,’ one better. She has a voice. She can’t snatch her wrist out of her father’s grip, but she’s not going to stay quiet as she watches her train chug out of the hopeless little Punjabi hamlet they want to coop her up in. I mean, this girl doesn’t sit around celebrating other people’s weddings. She writes poetry and stuff. There’s hope for her.

In all escapist fantasies, the protagonist is compelled to be passive. It wouldn’t be escapism if we were selfish and stubborn and refused to believe that there were powers greater than our own with a hand in our stories. Simran’s problem is entirely self-created, as is her refusal to get out of it. She’s just lucky enough to be saved by her sporadic attempts at making a break for it, in the moments when she allows people to read what she’s written and hear what she’s said.

She’s not a hero, because all her actions are, neatly enough, decided by the values of those she loves. But I quite like her. Making a choice out of all of what we have is sometimes more difficult than making the best of what you have. At the end of the film one lives in the hope that she will have grown enough, in twenty-five years’ time, to stand by her daughter when she tries to tell her father that she’s marrying someone he disapproves of (and trust me, that time will come, for happy-go-lucky and liberal are two very different things. There’s some ugly xenophobia lurking under that cheery, vacant exterior). Will she have something stashed away to give the kid as she packs up to leave? Maybe. There isn’t much money in poetry, but perhaps she’s gotten her own foothold in the family shares by then.


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Notes: I spent a lot of last evening watching parts of the Filmfare awards, otherwise known as the annual ‘Let’s Make the Chopras Feel Special Tonite!!1!!1!' gala. I caught Hrithik Roshan doing his ‘Dhoom: 2’ dance. Surely I am not the only straight woman to be charmed by his outrageously campy twirling around? Also I’m not sure what they were up to with the creepy Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan puppet show. Her look, pithily characterized as “…Parvati bhaabi!” by Flatmate #2, is beginning to disturb me. She has yet to be accused of seeming natural, but last night you could have taken a match to her and smelt nothing but polythene.

Oh man, though, Sridevi. Bigamy has clearly done her a world of good. ‘Chaalbaaz’ wasn’t half as good-looking fifteen years ago. But that’s a story for another post.


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And more notes: MARTY. And Helen Mirren! Well-deserved victories for ex-heroin addicts and Shakespeare veterans. That country is going Democratic again.

current musix: i’m shipping up to boston – the dropkick murphys.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

happy valentine's day

To star-crossed lovers everywhere.

Monday, February 05, 2007

baloney ishq

I wonder if film writers stop, before titling their work, to consider the number of people who will associate said title incongruously with a sandwich meat, and whether this percentage is ever considered to be large enough to do any damage to perceptions of the film. I wonder if this is why so many people seem prejudiced against Salaam e Ishq? Once again, though, I find myself in the enviable position of being opposed to such entities as Shobha De who appear to have hated the film: I loved it. Nay, I adored it. I’m going back to watch it again whenever I can. It was so hilarious and good-looking that I could have endured it for much longer than its four-hour running time.

What can I say? If I am the sole depraved champion of the idea that a complete lack of ambition can be amusing, so be it. Perhaps it is my inner twelve-year-old, the one that spent an age for baubles and Ricky Martin posters in serious contemplation of topics suitable for religious, demure maids, that is reacting to its overlong repression. Perhaps I was just overly impressed by the humanly-proportioned beauty of Vidya Balan (Tehzeeb, what a lovely name! For a non-Lucknowi, of course.)?

P.S. Of course, you know, I had a Ricky Martin poster.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

notes on an unexamined life.

Reading Zadie Smith the other day made me – well, happy, because I like Zadie Smith and very much enjoy and envy her beautiful/clever/successful/bohemian thing, and it made me think about how, in fact, the perfect novel has never been written, and how it never will be unless the perfect human being comes along. It’s because of what Zadie quotes and gently dismisses as the idea behind moral criticism, which is that good books are only written by good people. I read that to myself and realised that this is pretty much at the core of my appreciation of books. And about people. The complexity is in the idea of goodness, of course, and what constitutes it. I’ve mentioned it earlier, but I think it bears repeating: for me, compassion and humour are what make a good book, and I think both these qualities are what go into making a good person too. Good and interesting. Literature is a function of humanity, after all. Maybe. (thanks for the link, Uma.)

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Reading ‘Fever Pitch’ makes me a little sad because Nick Hornby always scares me into believing that being pithy is all it takes to get along in this world, and I can’t deal with that. Perhaps I will promise to write a book about my love for Arsenal FC, so that Cambridge will let me in, too? I have the right profile for it, even: un-English, un-white, un-male. Except for the last, I’d probably fit into Arsenal’s own club profile. Speaking of which, being too bereft of intellectual vim to blog about it in detail let me just STAND HERE AND CAPSLOCK ABOUT IT FOR A WHILE BECAUSE ARSENAL 2-1 MANCHESTER UNITED AND HOW OMG HOW O GUNNERS YOU ARE IN FASHION AND FORM AND I’M GOING AWAY TO JUMP UP AND DOWN SOMEWHERE. Dear Robin van Persie, your marital status breaks my virgin heart. * turns coy gaze to Gael Clichy, anyway *

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I’m a sucker for professional advancement.

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If you people haven’t been using Google Maps India, I suggest you go check it out right now. Just don’t use my comments page for judicious criticism or vitriolic abuse. Or anything at all, really.

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I watched ‘Guru’ last week. It looks like I am the only person in the world who didn’t think Abhishek Bachchan was All That. Perhaps the time has come to let the boy down gently. It doesn’t matter that he can’t act, not many people in Bollywood can and we are yet to let the fact bother us, but the gratuitous praise heaped upon him for a performance where he couldn’t even be bothered to remember when to be paralysed and when not to be is taking it a bit far. Enough, I say, but I can’t care. I have received the love of Daniel Craig into my heart, and naught shall touch me hence.

I wonder if the real Mrs Gurumurthy had multiple sclerosis, though.

Also world, plz to get over the engagement thing. You aren’t going to be invited, suck it up and move on.

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SRK’s KBC: yea/nay?

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'Gimme Shelter' is the greatest fracking rock song ever written: yea/nay?

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That’s all, unless you want to know what I think about Alberto Gilardino’s ankle injury in this weekend’s Lazio match, and you naturally don’t, because it is not broken and Milan is sucking and Gila’s kind of mediocre, anyway. (If I promise to write a book about Milan, will they let me in to the University of Milan? Or will my body be found in a ditch off the Milan-Turin autostrada with my cold stiff fingers clutching a photograph of an innocently smiling Silvio Berlusconi?)

Monday, January 08, 2007

high precept and low practice

Be patient with the market, we are told, be patient with the faith and good things will come. The market has done what the government never has. It has sent Bisleri into the heart of drought, it has planted phones in the wilderness, it has flown paupers into the sky, it has washed your tomatoes and put them in cellophane with a use-before date on it. The more you cede to it, the better things will get. The market has proved its prowess. It has blown barriers, mindsets, ideologies, empires. It wages on, relentless, powered by its intrinsic dynamics. But the market is not a creature of our choosing, remember. You never get to elect it, you cannot send it packing. It is not a democracy. It is not a welfare state. It is not an entity of selfless promise. It is an entity of profit. It will not, and cannot, do what the State does, or should. It certainly will not do what we meant our State to do, it bears no liabilities to us as our Constitution and all of our structures of State do, or are meant to. The market will not fetch water to the last man. It will not inoculate and educate our children. It will not bother with the correction of societal prejudice. It will not be held to the lofty ideals of man — liberty, equality, justice. If those serve the cause of profit, yes.

Not otherwise.


The Demons We Also Feed. Sankarshan Thakur in a hold-your-horses editorial for Tehelka. Nothing newsy or ballsy, but then neither is the glittering pile of 'India Poised' rhetoric that marks all the other yearly round-ups. I was particularly moved by this part. It put me to thinking of the end of His Dark Materials, when Lyra claims her life's work of building 'the Republic of Heaven.'

I was reading Tehelka on the flight back to Hyderabad. I was dismayed to see all the other free newsstands cleaned out by airport passengers but their stand left forlorn and full. I don't wish to be a-pimpin', but seriously, where is the love for the contrarian in this country? Please, dear readers. Next time you're at the airport, do something to deplete their stock.

current musix: goran bregovic and ofra haza - elo hi (canto nero)
hebrew prayer-pop meets balkan folk, and what a fine combination. this song is the only thing that is keeping me from playing the chris cornell james bond song on REPEAT.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

babel

The time has come to talk of Brad Pitt, and significantly, how indifferent I am to him. I liked him in Fight Club, but everyone else in that film was better than he. I hated him in Troy, but I hated everyone else in that one, with the possible exception of Eric Bana (who is, hello, no extreme thespian, but brunet wins versus blond every time in my opinion – and in my opinion, Troy was principally, perhaps solely, noteworthy for the hairdos.) Watching Le Pitt cry into a telephone at the end of Babel left me utterly unmoved. I realise he wasn’t cast for his dramatic abilities, but watching the aforementioned Bana, for example, in a similar scene in Munich, face crumpling as he talks to his daughter on the phone, was utterly moving in a way that Pitt, even with the help of a rough-greybeard-hiker look and a thoroughly harrowing storyline behind him, was not.

Discount all my opinions on film henceforth, for I am a sucker for Spielbergian manipulation? Eh, maybe. I didn’t like Babel. I liked some of the craft – the muted bleakness of landscapes as diverse as rural Morocco and Tokyo is lovely and very horrifying – and the subtitles (because subtitles are love) but on the whole, no cookie. There’s an abundance of ambition in this film, which alone rates it above single-point-agenda, tab-A-slot-B storytelling à la Crash. Oh my god, Babel is the least tab-A-slot-B film ever. It’s exciting in theory. But it turns out that being swung like a pendulum between extremes of sheer boredom and mindless terror leave one feeling not so much depleted as cheated. I don’t believe I’m ready for a post-Aristotelian disavowal of catharsis just yet. Is it too trite to expect art to make sense of life, especially in a film that is about the breakdown of communication?

Let me take a step back. There are four bewitching stories in the film, each one fully-developed and for the most part, beautifully acted. There isn’t disorientation so much as wonder at the way we swing from a Moroccan goatherd’s hut to a soap-opera American suburban home to hotspots in Tokyo. There’s also a Mexican wedding. (I need to emphasize the existence of the Mexican wedding. And Adriana Barraza and Gael García Bernal.) And nannies cry. Young men are foolish. Flies buzz. Children masturbate. Lives are caught in the process of destruction.

It’s a vast canvas, full of disparate strands. A Big Film is a choice that nine out of ten filmmakers with skill and craft and two braincells to rub together would make when presented with the notion of making a film about the barriers of language. So many other aspects spring to life when you look at the problem: culture, politics, economics. I don’t get it, though: why these four stories? Why subtitles? The multiplicity of languages is the whim of an irate god (sidenote: for moral lessons about man’s arrogance, we should all stick with the Greeks) in the biblical Babel story. These distances are really no one’s fault. I’ve known my grandmother all my life but I can’t understand a word she says anymore because Parkinson’s has impaired her speech so badly. Civilisation fails us in these small ways every day of our lives, and there’s no pattern to it, no sense. Perhaps it is merely my holiday mood talking, but shouldn’t cinema, I don’t know, grapple with these problems a little more? Babel just wasn’t confrontational enough for me. And the ideas fell short of the frame.

It was resonant in parts, most so in the story of Chieko, the deaf girl – which also gave me the creeps because I couldn’t turn off my wariness of male obsession with Japanese schoolgirls in time. (I know if you’ve read any other review of the film you will have heard oodles about how brilliant Rinko Kikuchi, the actor playing Chieko, is. So let me submit, merely for the record: I think Rinko Kikuchi is pretty fracking brilliant.) But after fraying my nerves with each passing hour, it came down to me being unmoved by the plight of Le Pitt on the phone with his son. And hoping that Alfonso Cuarón has actually done better with Children of Men.

Unrelated footnote: I miss a hi-speed Internet connection like the deserts miss the rain. Also, please never get a pedicure in Bombay unless you can get your pedicurist to bind your feet in impenetrable plastic wrap before you step out of the salon. One sets oneself up for heartbreak any other way.