Friday, March 18, 2011


"THE POPCORN ESSAYISTS: what movies do to authors", edited by Jai Arjun Singh, will be launched at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi on Tuesday 22nd March. All those within reach of Asia should attempt to be there. (Of course, this leaves me out, heheh).

It's a collection of essays by published authors who are NOT otherwise connected with films -- though, umm, some of us have had our plays made into films. Well. Whatever. My essay, JELLYFISH, is featured in the book. If you want to read the essay or -- better yet -- want to know why it's called JELLYFISH, you'll have to buy the book. Which you can do, easily enough, through FlipKart, by clicking this LINK.

Of course, there are a number of other reasons for buying the book, such as the other authors:

Musharraf Ali Farooqi, Rajorshi Chakraborti, Amitava Kumar, Kamila Shamsie, Sumana Roy, Manil Suri, Madhulika Liddle, Anjum Hasan, Sidin Vadukut, Namita Gokhale, Jaishree Mishra.

You can read A SNEAK PREVIEW at Jai Arjun's Blog.

And you can also read this excerpt from my essay:

[Mumbai, circa 1981. Interior]

In a room the size of a sweaty handkerchief, I and some seventy other members of the Alliance Française film club are watching François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. The film is about to end. On screen, we see the right side of a young boy’s head and shoulders.

I wonder whether to risk a yawn.

The boy is walking towards the sea with no clear purpose in mind.

I know I am not worthy of my membership. Even though the film is one of the central pillars of modern French cinema I cannot focus on it because the auditorium is too uncomfortable. The folding metal seats have been designed by an evil orthopaedist looking for customers. The floor is uniformly flat and viewers are forced to strain their Kurosawas and Renoirs through a sieve of other viewers’ hair. In summer, the lack of air-conditioning guarantees death by B.O. And of course the majority of the movies are wrist-slittingly sad.

This one, for instance, is centred on a troubled fourteen- year-old boy living in Paris. The story moves at the pace of an arthritic sloth while packing the punch of a land- mine in the gut.

I want to inform my companion of the evening that I simply do not have the mental energy for films like this. Yes, yes, they’re beautiful, haunting, memorable, and all the rest of it, but what about the emotional wreckage they leave in their wake? I am, after all, a Hollywood junkie. I admit it without shame, like an addict who wears her needle-tracks with pride. I thrill to my Technicolor sunsets, my MetroGoldwynMayer lions and my air- brushed, peroxided heroines. Assisted Reality is what I call these films, and I love them all the more for knowing they will never kick me in the Jiminy Cricket or leave me bleeding in the Mekong.

Meanwhile my companion, whom I shall call B–, is even then, thirty years ago, so steeped in his knowledge of films and his passion for them that he seems to my eyes practically incontinent with world-weariness. We are both in our twenties, me late, he early. I enjoy his intensity and his seriousness even though I know he does not consider me girlfriend material. I often wonder what he sees in me. Nothing, probably. When a young man has watched enough art cinema, he knows that romantic love will never make it past the editing table.

Onscreen, our boy is still walking. The scenery continues to move away to the left, behind him, which is how we know he’s in motion. It’s a pleasant summer’s day and the French countryside looks suitably tranquil and inviting, even in black and white.

I begin to wonder why we’ve been watching the same damn scene for so long.

I turn towards B–.

He is sitting at the very edge of his seat, like a gundog on point.

He’s muttering to himself, ‘Come on, come on.’ That’s all he says. He’s fidgeting, he’s leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, he’s sweeping back the comma of hair that falls over his forehead and giving his fingernails a quick chew. In a word, he’s doing the adult equivalent of a child jumping up and down, screaming encouragement to Luke Skywalker taking on the Empire single-handed.

Yet before us on the screen is nothing more than a boy, walking.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011


This is such a neat little game! It's called FAMOUS OBJECTS FROM CLASSIC MOVIES and I got it from another outstanding source-object called VSL, short for VERY SHORT LIST. If you haven't already subscribed (free, like all good things) to VSL, I suggest clicking and signing up right away. You won't regret it (though of course you might lose your day job. But then again, you won't care. You'll be too busy following up VSL's smart, interesting links).

OKAY! And here's a bonus link to BABY ELEPHANTS PLAYING IN A KIDDIE'S WADING POOL! If I were a mad scientist, I'd find a way to shrink elephants down to the size of Great Danes, so that we could all have ELEPHANTS as house companions instead of -- whatever -- dogs, cats, people. Notice, I said "house companions" rather than pets? I think we've got to stop with the "pet" concept. Or anyway, not when we're talking about animals other than humans.

Saturday, March 05, 2011


But first, an amusement of the Rock-Paper-Scissors kind: play against a computer at the New York Times: MATCH WITZ WITH A ROBOT HAND!

And here's the review. It appeared on Saturday 5th March, in OUTLOOK Magazine (I didn't choose the title!):

KNOW INDIA--Learn the Alphabet By Heart
Barely have we strapped ourselves in to read Anand Giridharadas’s rollercoaster ride of thoughts, experiences and interviews about being an Indo-American who returns to India, when whoosh! It’s over.

But in its brisk way, the book covers a broad area while sparing us the mandatory visits to slums, brothels and palaces. It should appeal to the thousands of so-called ABCDs—American Born Confused Desis—who struggle with feelings shading from guilt and confusion to joyous surrender to their ethnic homeland. Amongst the most corrosive results of emigration is the loss of a past without the benefit of gaining a present. For the Indian diaspora, the typical cultural dislocation of all immigrants is multiplied many times over by the fact that, as a culture, we’re not homogeneous and the shared citizenship is an illusion. We might find ourselves being thrown together with others of our nationality only to realise that we have neither food, language, religion nor social experience in common. We would be better off with complete aliens, who would at least have no expectations, than with one of our “own”, who might be inclined to penalise us for being non-standard.

Giridharadas’s story is just one amongst the countless multi-dimensional histories that this diaspora has begun to write. His parents left during the peak “brain-drain” years. They fell in love in India and married across the Punjab-Tamil Nadu cultural divide. Once in the US, they assimilated quickly, raising their two children as Americans, rather than as Indians-in-Exile. In this way, Giridharadas had less confusion to contend with than many others. His face and genes are Indian, but the organisation of his thoughts is American. When he talks to Ravindra the Roller Skating King or the hapless divorcing couples at the Bandra Family Court or the god-emperor-industrialist Mukesh Ambani, it is as an outsider looking in, but with the advantage of looking like an insider.

When Giridharadas talks to divorcing couples, or Mukesh Ambani, it’s as an outsider looking in, but who looks like an insider.
The thing that wasn’t clear to me by book’s end was whether the author set out to tell us more, then decided to hold back. He weaves the personal narrative of his parents’ departure from India, his own upbringing and the stages by which he revisits India as an adult in between the stories he gathers from a handful of others. The result is patchy, as if he has selected from a rather slender stock of options. Of his own story, the most intimate glimpse he offers is of the account left by his paternal grandmother, a 32-page document entitled ‘Our Marriage’. Though the author tells us that “it conjured a world that was unrecognisable in twenty-first-century India,” I would say the exact opposite. Not only has very little changed in the way marriages are arranged but in his descriptions of personal life, Giridharadas is just as reserved a writer as his grandmother was. He refers to his parents’ love-match and to his own shadowy girlfriends in the manner of a chef who mentions chillies but doesn’t use them.

Trained as a management consultant, the author moved to Bombay in 2003, working for McKinsey & Company for two years. Having previously interned with the New York Times at the age of 17, he returned to journalism in 2005, reporting from Bombay for the NYT andHerald Tribune for four years. The stories he tells best are those which work as set pieces in a column, such as the scenes at the Family Court and the tragicomic account of his stay in a Ludhiana home belonging to two brothers, where climbing the stairs from the ground to the first floor is like time-travel from the fly-blown hospitality of the past to the cell-phone-enabled future. I wondered how his subjects would respond to their depiction in this book, whether they felt violated rather than showcased. But perhaps that’s always the case with documentary footage?

I also found myself being reminded, oddly enough, of both Geeta Mehta’s Karma Cola (1979) and Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City (2004). Both were huge best-sellers, but one was written as infotainment and the other as dispatches from an urban war-zone. Giridharadas is cooler, younger and more detached than either of these writers. He writes with the confidence of the marathon runner, who knows he has many miles to cover before he truly finds his way home.

Friday, March 04, 2011


Serious brain candy! Click this link: BEST PHOTOMANIPULATION ARTISTS

I came across it at the BEST BOOKMARKS site. Here's what they say about themselves:

Best Bookmarks is a daily-updated, lifestyle blog for everyone who loves Arts in general, Paintings, Illustrations, Sculpture, Photography and more.

We keep track of everything interesting so you don’t have to.
Each post brings you to a place worth visiting.

Best Bookmarks is the right place for you! We are sure you will find something that piques your interest.
Enjoy Best Bookmarks.

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