I used to be a majorleague movie buff at one point of time. It almost seemed like no movie would release in Hindi, Kannada and Tamil, and to some extent, English, without my knowledge. Mind you, this was in the pre-Internet days, which meant I basically scoured MTV and Channel [V] and Sun TV and Udaya TV to insane extents. While also scouring the filmi news reported in Deccan Herald, Indian Express and, heh, ToI, apart from The Week, India Today and on occasion, The Hindu. I was too snobbish to read Filmfare and Stardust back then.
And then NITK happened, and I lost the TV habit, and there was no LAN or unlimited Internet my first two years to keep my movie habit going.
I used to think it was no big loss, because “the recent movies are all utter manure”. But that is totally not true… pop culture of an earlier era always seems godawesome because you forget about all the crap and only the awesome stuff remains burnt to memory. And I watched enough junk – Aarzoo, Mr. and Mrs. Khiladi, Zulmi, Zor, Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar, Hum Saath Saath Hain were just some of the many repressed memories of utterly idiotic fare I indulged in back then. Oh, and the next time anyone calls Aamir Khar Mr. Perfectionist, they deserve to be subjected to Mela and 1947-Earth back to back.
I watched a lot of movies in third and final year, but those were more of random picks than any actual craze for cinema. Including the first day first show watch of Om Shanti Om. And in college, watching movies was something you did because it was there on an overfull LAN, not because you are fascinated by the trailer or anything. Accessing everything on the Internet has its pitfalls – your allergy for advertisements means that you don’t see anything you don’t explicitly want to see – including new stuff. Unless someone or the other recommends it to you.
Naturally, I am stuck in a ’92-Early’00s pop culture loop. And don’t really try to get out.
I wasn’t too aware of all the stuff I’ve written so far until late this afternoon. I came across the trailer for Vishal Bharadwaj’s 7 Khoon Maaf. Watch it yourself:
Don’t you feel the flesh creep a little? Especially at the ‘Darrrrlingggg’? The gentle, understated change from ‘Husband’ to ’7 Husbands’ piqued your curiosity, didn’t it? And John Abraham in drag… that makes you want to watch the movie just to know what the heck is up with that, doesn’t it?
After a really long time, I’m all fired up about a movie. About a Hindi movie…. I was suitably fired up about Shutter Island. So much that I think when I finally stream this movie, it’ll be something I actually make time for, not something I just look for on a boring weekend evening.
I am intrigued by the presence of Usha Uthup as well. She was nothing short of perfect as Madhavan’s snide mom in Manmadhan Ambu. And here, as a loyal housekeeper who won’t stop short of murder, I’m dying to watch her in it.
Most reviews seem to be dissing the movie. I don’t much care about it being macabre… that’s the point of such a flick – being a black comedy it’s supposed to present gruesome acts in a cute, sympathetic way that the juxtaposition shocks you. One review however got me down… it said the flick could have been so, so much more, and that Priyanka Chopra’s character is never explored much. *Sigh*
I guess this will turn out to be a colossal disappointment much like 90% of the movies I’ve waited for with bated breath. The most colossal disappointment I’ve had is Hey Ram. God the pre-release hype! Especially when it’s a bilingual, especially when the tags for the movie would be Gandhi, Independence, Partition, Kamal Haasan, Ilaiyaraja, Shah Rukh Khan, Kavignar Vaali, Hema Malini, Rani Mukherjee, Godse, Religious Riots, Kamal Haasan’s directorial debut, Kissing, and apart from all that, a very Iyengar-looking Bangalore girl (from MCC, no less) in the lead role hyped it extremely for me. The trailers, the music were all totally something. And then finally watching it…. god, what a damp squib. In the words of my aunt, “Tamizhum, Hindi-yum, Bengali-yum kalandhu onnume puriyala…. illa, onnu mattum purinjadu – Kamal thaan hero-nu“. [In the unholy mix that was the arbit usage of Hindi, Tamil and Bengali, all I could grasp was that Kamal was the hero].
But, you know what, I’d probably not care much if it did turn out to be a bad movie. I consider every movie an experience by itself. You don’t gain much from watching a bad movie, yes, but then, you don’t gain much by watching a good movie either. At max, watching movies opens up your imagination. Normally we’d all have super unconstrained imaginations, but given the barrage of movies, television and other media, we sort of begin thinking in a constrained way, and to keep it rich and vivid and active, we need to load up on as much information and as many narrative styles as we can manage.
Or maybe, I watch movies with the hope that something in them will be able to help me bring together all the little blips of inspired storytelling that flash to me at the randomest of times, into a coherent story. And each time I watch a bad movie, there’s already a framework for me to think in, and armchair filmmaking, whining about how this scene could have had ten times the impact if only this actor had done that and the other actor had done this, is a good enough starting point.
I’m writing this in darkest hour. No, not metaphorically like that.. just that dawn is an hour or so away. My body clock is rather messed up, and I’m stuck about whether to embrace it or to go on the warpath and try to set it ‘right’, right here meaning the sort that’ll wake a few hours before noon and sleep somewhere on the good side of midnight. I’m afraid to upset the delicate balance I’ve created, but I also crave the productivity of the morning hours. It’s not like I’ve not tried setting it ‘right’… I’ve tried over so many weekends, to sleep it off or keep awake, but something or the other always, always messes it up.
Talking of which, I have a vague, vague wish I were in Egypt two weeks back. Some detox from the Internet is what I need, yeah, but I can’t voluntarily detox now when I’m actually awaiting a lot of stuff in my inbox. I can’t pull a danah boyd (Lack of capitalization intentional. That’s how she spells her name) and ask everyone to email me a week hence. Not just yet.
However, I don’t even remotely wish I was Egyptian over the past week. Uprising and all is great, but volatility kills me, it just kills me. I cannot take the excitement of a pregnant pause, the cusp of something totally different, the uncertainty in what’s coming next. And yes, I’m going through a bit of that for a few other reasons. I think if I were in Egypt, I’d've broken a window, set something on fire, thrown a Molotov cocktail at an armyman…. something to spark off all the latent tension.
I just can’t take uncertainty.
And all the stuff about how the Internet helps organize mobs… y’know what, uncoordinated publicity, hashtags and all that can only incite mob frenzy. Nothing more. If anything gets done, it’s in the frenzy of a mob. And it can also be easily defused. Expecting 10k likes to translate into 1k people on the streets is too much, let alone expecting 10k people on the streets based on some Facebook community. The reason all these things looking like they work are because they place great weights on things that don’t take much for people to do. Sounds pretty disjoint coming from me at this time in the night/morning, but it was very lucidly said by Malcolm Gladwell in an opinion piece I can’t seem to find now.
I’ve pretty much lost faith in humanity, so I don’t expect the outcomes of the ‘revolutions’ dotting the Arab world to lead to any larger good for the countries or for the rest of us. As long as there are people to be exploited, there will be tinpot dictators, slavedriver bosses, bossy spouses, martinet teachers.
And heck, if anyone’s nice to me, or anything good happens, I just don’t take it well. I am constantly looking for the price-tag, the downside, the catch… it’s good, in a way, I’ve to admit.
Y’know how it is when you hate things for absolutely no reason? Yeah. It pays to try finding out why exactly you hate these things, and for writing it down somewhere for posterity. Otherwise you’re wont to hear one mindblowing talk and say “Heck, why didn’t I consider this career option? What was I smoking?”, and kick yourself for weeks together till the reason is staring at you in the face and you say “Oh, yeah, that’s why”. Save yourselves the trouble, children.
Also, the reason you pick a career is not because you love the awesome stuff… anyone can love that, but you pick one because you like the boring stuff about the job as well. Like the endless waiting for code to finish compiling, or the thrill of reading a dozen papers on a topic and categorizing them, or dodging the paparazzi or singing the same note for three hours to get it right.
Short book review: I read Ryu Murakami’s Almost Transparent Blue. Fellas, don’t mistake Ryu Murakami for Haruki Murakami. Also, this book is absolutely not for everyone. Puke-worthy. And worse, pointless. Though, I must say, writing’s okay.
Oh, and the DA’s office decided to press charges against 11 students belonging to the Muslim Students Association for planning a disruption of the Israeli ambassador’s speech here last year. Looking at this, I wonder if my earlier stance on the need for student activism was misplaced. It suddenly seems like the right thing to do is to go to class like a good kid and keep away from any sort of trouble. I don’t know if it would have been just like this if it was a more protesty campus like Berkeley instead of goody-two-shoes Irvine… what do you say? As for facts, while I didn’t attend the talk, you can read this article here.
And, well, I’ve been at the receiving end of some racism as well over the past week. I don’t want to talk about it, and the perpetrator was someone well-known to be racist and well-known as the Department Jerk, so it’s not a reflection on attitudes here in general (though I’ve also heard tales of a racist European here), more so since the jerk was told off quite quickly by folks around me. I was very very pissed, and still am, and while it irks me that I’m not displaying any backbone here by making the Jerk’s life miserable, the more I think about it, the more it seems to not be worthwhile. More so since it seems more of a display of jerk-ism than racism.
Then… I’ve sort of been attending these Women In Computer Science events on campus. I’d love to go to those conferences, but haven’t got an opportunity yet, so just the campus stuff for now. While it’s great that these spunky undergrads are taking initiatives to get highschool girls interested in computer science, I have mixed feelings about another aspect of this. I find I am not too comfortable with the whole “Computer science doesn’t mean being a nerd, y’know” line. Especially when that is peddled about to get girls interested in stuff like Informatics and technical writing and software testing. For one thing, it makes Informatics, technical writing and software testing look like the poor cousins of ‘real Computer Science’. For another, it says folks in computer science are nerds and for some reason, being a nerd is a bad thing, and more so if you are a girl.
If your girls are not choosing parallel processing and database systems as a career because it requires being a ‘nerd’, there’s something wrong with the whole system, not with the girls. If your society says working hard is a bad thing, or choosing not to do something just because it’s hard is okay, something’s wrong with that attitude. If your society doesn’t reward persistence with anything but social ostracism, there’s something wrong with it, and that’s what you have to work to correct. Not these band-aid measures. Like getting women to do the ‘easier’ jobs in the field and saying ‘Oh, look, we have a fair representation of genders in our workplace’. This is just passing the buck, and it doesn’t solve any damn thing.
That said, I sometimes wonder if I’d've been better off in some artsy job that involved writing features and blurbs and reviews, meeting Marxy members of the literati, talking in abstractions, finding phallic symbols in the opening scene of Lion King, making Free Binayak Sen posters and Tshirts, and sending pink innerwear to some remote address in North Karnataka. That, when I’m not viewing people from other countries as objects in a museum, acting in plays which use just one prop and have plenty of monologues, and lamenting the cloistering morality of the middle classes of India. I possibly wouldn’t have been as analytical as I am now, but maybe that’d be a good thing; it’s blissful to not know the extent of your ignorance about the world.
And then I look at one of those Indian-hippies-discovering-themselves-in-the-US, with their Jayanagar-4th-Block-Pavement junk jewelry, their ill-fitting kurtas and their totally clashing salwars, their desperately-in-need-of-a-comb hairdo, their lack of pride in themselves, and back at my Zen-ish accessorizing, recent trendy haircut, clothes designed to blend in rather than stand out, and strict no-caffeine-as-wake-me-up rule and decide the change is totally not worth it.
Just imagine that you found that perfect gadget or dress or jacket or something else in the shop window. That thing which you have been searching for ages and never found anything as exact. You immediately rush in and buy it. Then you flaunt this prized possession. Others may think that it is unnecessary fuss over something very ordinary looking. But the worth of it is very personal to you.
Now think of that book you have been reading furiously, and associating with every character and every incident. Or that television series you have been following since as long as you can remember. There is something about these that you feel very closely connected to. Something that makes you feel that you are a part of it. Or like you know all of them as a part of your own life.
Then there are people you are close to. A few of them whom you know through and through, and they know you the same way. Others whom you have worked closely with. One or two you have felt the strong connection with, albeit few interactions. A few more whom you know very little about, but refresh their Facebook profile all the time.
Look at all of these from another angle.
There are a thousand others who bought the same thing as you did. A million other people who read that same book or watched the same show as you did. All the people you so tightly hold on to, have equally or more meaningful relations with so many other people.
In such a situation, what about that object or those shows or the people is it that you really can call your own? How mad are you really allowed to get, if you find that there are others who think about these the same way as you do?