Monday, 15 December 2008
Friday, 12 December 2008
Thursday, 11 December 2008
And then I was confronted by the image of a boy in the slums of Mumbai, covered in shit (there isn't a sophisticated way of putting it), and sprinting to get an autograph of Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan. This image was disgusting and endearing at the same time and set the tone for the rest of the film - about rags and riches, money and love, God and death, tourist and native, class and power, violence and envy. There are countless movies of all genres in the market on the above themes, but what sets Slumdog Millionaire apart is its unabashed representation of the most gory details of poverty and its accompanying ills. Thus, my dilemmas began to dissipate in the grime and sheer reality of the streets of Mumbai. The director invited me to take up the point of view of his three musketeers - Salim, his brother Jamal, and Jamal's sweetheart Latika, so I accepted the invitation.
The part of the film I enjoyed the most was the orphaned brothers' adventures through India - riding on trains and hanging off the roof of one to steal a passenger's chappati through a window, inventing novel ways of making money by stealing shoes and embezzling foreign tourists at the Taj Mahal, working in local restaurants and re-filling old mineral water bottles. Needless to say, one had no choice but to surrender western notions of morality to empathise with the boys and applaud their ingenuity. However, morality of all kinds was put under a cloud when Salim, by then an adolescent, decided to have Latika to himself after rescuing her from the hands of her evil benefactor who he shot, and subsequently throwing his naive younger brother Jamal out of the hotel room where the trio were putting up. Betrayal of blood, of family! What do we do now? We stood by Jamal as his 18-year old self alternatively sat in a police officer's chair and the contestant's seat on India's 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?' and flashed back to the confronting stories of his past. Did he win the coveted prize money? Was he even after the money? What about Latika? Why was he being questioned by a cop? What was his destiny?
I will deliberately leave the aforementioned questions unanswered so your curiosity bones are tickled and you have adequate motivation to go watch the film when it is officially released in Australia on 18 December. All I can say is that I liked it probably because it is a film of this generation - not overtly stylistic like a Deepa Mehta or Mira Nair work, not escapist like most of commercial Hollywood and Bollywood, and not pretentiously cerebral like some art cinema. Slumdog Millionaire is an in-your-face and on-your-skin kind of film - let it in or leave it out!
Wednesday, 3 December 2008
Monday, 17 November 2008
Now, a certain degree of practical experience later, I am wondering if I (and many of my fellow women) are so open-minded and kinky after all. Can we, for instance, date someone so different from the way we were brought up that their good qualities overshadow our own prejudices? A conversation with a stranger who turned out to be a blue-collar worker made me realise that I am more conditioned by my class and upbringing that I am willing to admit. The man in question was quick to point out that I must be upper-caste Indian because of my proper English. (An aside - questions/remarks to do with the Indian caste system, arranged marriage, and Bollywood do not constitute good pick-up lines or initmate conversation topics). While the formative years spent poring over Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens and others have contributed to this 'properness' (or an illusion of it anyway), I can't help but wonder a) if this is a reaction to dissociate oneself from any assumptions about a rustic brand of 'Indianness', and b) whether being well-read and worldly can free one completely from the often prudish attitudes of the birth culture.
Case in point is a character named 'Prudie' in the film, The Jane Austen Book Club. Prudie is a French teacher who is ashamed of the fact that she has never been to France and who, according to her bohemian mother, dresses like a flight attendant. Not only has she gone the other way because of her hippy commune upbringing, but she is also constantly finding fault with her neanderthal husband. An episode of lust towards a student makes her wonder if her mother is dormant within her, although she eventually chooses to stay loyal. Perhaps the moral then (if there is any such unequivocal 'thing' as a moral) is that all one can do is not beat oneself up about what one is or isn't. True open-mindedness lies is recongnising the limitations of the self as much as being empathetic to the flaws of the other. Prejudices welcome...
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
I look through school photos as well as pictures of my early years in Australia and see a recognizable but not entirely familiar face staring back. That girl is an unmistakable nerd in her loosely fitted clothes, her round glasses, her plaited hair and her intellectually timid demeanor. This girl, even though ‘academic’, as pointed out recently by a good friend, is no longer the Goody two-shoes idealistic achiever of her younger years. She/I now would rather read a classy women’s mag or bead a bohemian necklace on a lazy Sunday afternoon than attempt to finish my tutorial readings before time or brush up on the latest in US politics. I would rather babysit my best friend’s ten-year old brother (even if it involves successive defeats on Playstation car games) than lock myself in a room and write an impassioned piece on the trauma faced by first and second-generation immigrants. Where is the career woman, the Miranda (of Sex and the City fame) that I always envisaged myself to be? Why do I feel like a mixture of Carrie and Charlotte? What is MY destiny as a young woman who wants a balance between enjoyment of material comforts, devotion to worldly causes and the pursuit of creativel hobbies?
I am sporting a fringe after years of having nothing but long, dark, straight, and increasingly boring hair. After experimenting with hair scarves, layers, partings, side ponytails, I was simply looking for something more expressive of me. This ‘radical’ new hairstyle received a warm reception from friends and colleagues in Adelaide, but I was wary of the reactions it would provoke back home. To my pleasant surprise, my parents did not utter a word of protest and my can’t-keep-anything-to-herself sister said I looked like a doll. Me? A doll? I took this well, but when my mum later commented on her eldest daughter being a firang (foreigner), I was taken aback. True, I will celebrate my sixth anniversary of being in Australia in early 2009, but I love Indian textiles, silver jewellery, Mughalai cuisine, anarchic politics, Hinglish writers, Sufi musicians and other cultural artifacts even more than most ‘Indian Indians’. Perhaps this nostalgia, this romanticized notion of India’s highest potential is what makes me a foreigner in the land of my birth. Perhaps my now-persistent whining about the smallness of Adelaide and the back-of-beyondness of Australia implies that I am actually mirroring the regular Aussie whinger. Perhaps I just need to stop thinking about where I belong, and ask a more pertinent question. What is MY culture as a hyphenated, globe-trotting, transnational citizen?
Monday, 27 October 2008
Wednesday, 22 October 2008
Monday, 20 October 2008
Sunday, 12 October 2008
I wish there were a genre called 'life'. And that would make life easier for all kinds of writers, directors and agents. Ne need to explain a plot that doesn't have an end. No need to apologise for a heroine who can look good and think. No need to hide the objects of affection that arrived before the soulmate. No need to elaborate on other-worldly cultural references and colours. No need to load every spoken word with a formal statement of intent. No need to push characters beyond their paper existence.
Experience and instinct tell me that good writing must have clarity as well as elegance. So here's my pitch - I want to make an ordinary film about an ordinary life, and the audience can decide if it's special. The life I want to depict is ordinary because there is a lot of reading, writing, talking, eating, loving and leaving involved. The film I want to make about this life is ordinary because it will use cameras, tripods, microphones, lighting, computers and editing equipment. And hence, you must invest in it because it will transcend its ordinaridess in its specificity. Every detail will be illuminated until it becomes the centre of your audio-visual universe. Logic and meaning will arise from lingering, not cutting. You will feel texture in two dimensions.
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
There lived a bookish princess
Who spent her adolescence in glasses
And heralded her youth in heels.
But she hadn’t let go of her reticence
Even as she embraced the chic world of godlessness
So she fell blindly in love with a commoner
Who she mistook for her bespectacled prince.
She lusted after him day and night
Even with the books there to give respite
But the fantasies never turned real
While her broken heart became palpable.
Misty-eyed, where now she thought
Where are my dreams and desires
Where does my happiness lie
Where can I find grace and gumption.
She journeyed far and wide for answers
She peeped into her heart to know herself
She talked to kith, kin and karma
And she wrote an ode to her soul.
Poetry was the cause and the cure
She recited a mantra to fall out of love
So she could sing about falling in love again
And live merrily with Prince and Post-Modernity.
I was alive but not living
Not noticing the colour of the leaves in my backyard
Or the texture of the wood in my office
Or the varying temperatures of my own body.
And now with each new burst of spring
Tiny parts of my spirit are beginning to swell
With the joy of being and breathing in this universe
Feeling its heart beat in my own chest.
Saturday, 2 August 2008
Tuesday, 29 July 2008
Thursday, 24 July 2008
Monday, 14 July 2008
Monday, 30 June 2008
Saturday, 28 June 2008
Monday, 23 June 2008
Tuesday, 10 June 2008
Thursday, 5 June 2008
Friday, 30 May 2008
Similar to the story of 31-year old Ashley who, despite being a patent attorney in Silicon Valley, carrying a Prada handbag, and subscribing to the Christian faith, is SINGLE (but more importantly, dissatisfied). Hence she goes about changing her attitude and getting comfortable in her own skin as the narrative progresses. So what's new here? Haven't we all heard this advice before from well-meaning Oprahs? I think the character is endearing because of her many vulnerabilities, and her ability to laugh at herself.
Tuesday, 20 May 2008
Saturday, 17 May 2008
Sunday, 27 April 2008
So I baked today. Created a cake. No pre-mixture was involved. And as its freshly-cooked smell wafted through my home, I came back here to finish writing this. I also watched a David Lynch movie in between. There was nothing mundane about this film. Perhaps that is how I came to have an appreciation of normality. To get back into the post-Lynch real world, I went to the kitchen to taste my cake. A bit dry, but will do, especially considering I haven’t baked in months. And also keeping in mind I didn’t use a recipe. Just a long-developed knack for sensing fluffy sponges from the texture of the batter. I knew this batter wasn’t perfect, but it had that special mingling of coffee and hot chocolate in a cake that I find irresistible as winter makes its annual windy-rainy way into town.
I wrote. I baked. I ate. I wrote again. And I feel lighter. In the head and in the heart. I know my dilemmas won’t go away if I serve them a piece of the cake I just baked, or offer them my writing/editing services. However, as long as they are not an impediment to my creative and emotional development, they can take their jolly time in the supermarket queue. I’ll either wait patiently, or try talking to the person in front. Perhaps I secretly hope that another cash register opens soon so I’m the first one in line. So I can be served in a jiffy and make my way home. But what’s the rush? I can think as I wait. Getting home will unleash countless chores. When/where will I fit in the baking? I did today, a day I also waited almost an hour at the bus stop. Without reading. Without listening to my comfort-playlist. Maybe over-stimulation was the rut in the first place. Can you smell my cake?
Monday, 14 April 2008
Monday, 7 April 2008
Friday, 21 March 2008
The city that now seems afar
Because it is not my memory
But the silhouette of it
Like a bygone self
On vacation in a distant land
Revelling in its novelty
In the dew-like newness
That makes every day glisten
Which is sought by the current self
In the city of now
Of an approaching winter
And a tender core
Growing stronger in its fragility.