Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Update (Really?)

Busier these days than I would like to be at this time.

Drinking more cups of very strong coffee than I should be.

Not eating the food I am supposed to be.

Not writing enough, as a result. Rather, not writing the right things.

Gasping for breathe, and a few more hours each day.

Thinking: too much or not at all, alternatively.

Liking it all. Most of the time.

This sounds exactly like those university days!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Those Days...

Even as I type this, BK and I are texting each other on that one month last year, one month that probably changed everything back here, in me, everything.

We are talking of very fresh mooli-paranthas at Panch Pula, Dalhousie's Cafe Snow Bell, of Dharamsala and Khajjiar and that one month. I look back at all those pictures and that one month and everything that happened flashes by. We talk of those old days. And make new plans....

Dalhousie is that less frequented gem that I want to go back to, simply because there aren't many tourists around. Dharamsala is too highly over rated, though a friend insists there are hidden places away from the cocaine snorting backpacker crowd.

That one month. Those old days. Sigh...

Friday, November 12, 2010

OD-ing Cinema

I think I now have a fairly steady list of my top three films, of course subject to constant change.
-- Casablanca, but of course
-- Motorcycle Diaries, but of course again
-- Postmen in the Mountains, a new one. A new one that I watched today, I meant.

This whole week I have been happily OD-ing cinema, some of the finest, at the international film festival organized by Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy till this weekend. Yours truly is anchoring it at one of the three venues and bringing out a newsletter at the end of each day. It's been utterly fun, being paid to sit and watch films all day! It feels so much like being back in college.

Thanks to Poorna sir at university, the Film Studies class has remained the finest class I shall ever be in. Over a year, we watched films nearly every day, sometimes two per day. The best part was the discussion after the film. After a few dozen, we had all become quite good at noticing little details and paying attention to angles and lighting and such like. I have been trying to do the same here too. Sometimes there is company to sit with, sometimes I find myself a little corner. Then there are new people to talk to about cinema and that director and this story and what was good. There have been tales of experiences I am incredibly jealous of, some acquaintances that I earnestly hope will turn into friendships.

I meant to write on the films. It started with the incredible Whoopi Goldberg in Sarafina, a South African musical. Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God was beautiful and reminded me of the Amazon trip that I had promised myself when I was 15. National award winning Kutty Srank (Malayalam) was interesting too, reminded me of Akiro Kurosawa's Roshoman. Frank Capra's Mr Smith Goes to Washington was funny and so was The General, an old silent film; watch it for the beauty of communicating without words.

That brings me to Postmen in the Mountains. I must say, it is by far one of the best films I have ever seen. The Chinese film was made by Huo Jinqui in 1999 and tells the story of a postman who hands over his duty to his son to deliver letters to highly inaccessible villages in the mountains of Hunan province, China. On the son's first trip, the father accompanies him and the story is about the bond that forms between the two. I care not to write a full review, read this instead:

What bowled me over was the cinematography. Just like Motorcycle Diaries, this is a image-heavy film. Lots of green fields, tall mountains, stone-laid walking paths, a moving didn't take much for me to love it!

I must mention a few scenes here. In one village, the father reads out a letter to a grandmother, supposedly written by her grandson. But in fact, the grandson never writes to her and it is the kind postman who slips in money and an empty sheet of paper to her to keep her going. There is one shot of the grandmother looking out of the door as the 'letter' that the postman makes up, is being read. The lighting is so fantastic, I can still see it before me.

There is another where the father tells his son that he has delivered letters all his life but he had got only one letter all his life and that was written by his wife telling him of the birth of their son. A very poignant scene. Towards the end, there is a role reversal where the son advices the father about the things he has to do in the village; all these years, he was delivering mail and is ignorant of his village.

There are some very emotional scenes in the film. Every shot could be a picture postcard. I will stop gushing now. Just watch it.

My eyes are tired. There are four more films to watch tomorrow. Ciao!

Wonder Where I can Watch This....

This new film called Slackistan by Hammad Khan is doing the media rounds quite a bit. Khan is an independent film maker and the film is about 20-somethings in Islamabad. Wonder where I can watch it...

Given my new found interest in our neighbour, I have a lot to write, owing to what I have been reading. Tomorrow, I promise myself. There are some very thoughtful things I need to share.

Friday, November 05, 2010

It's Been a Great Festival This Time...

Here is to a great Deepawali, dear all. I am home again this time, and its been a specially great festival. There are many mud lamps that we have at home; lamps are where I get my name from. I read somewhere, "I don't believe in convention, but I believe in tradition." That's sort of totally me.
That line was from this great political history book I just finished reading. I must write on that. For now, my eyes are very droopy after a great festival oota. Stay happy you all. Happy Deepawali.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Seal's Commitment

(Well, the embedded YouTube thingie didn't work, yet again. Here is the link instead to the video: )

OK, so I find Seal hot. His voice too, yes yes. Thanks to my highly (not) eclectic (!) taste in music, besides Sinatra, Seal's new album Commitment is currently playing hot on my laptop.

Love Secret and Weight of my Mistakes.

Now who do I bulldoze into giving me a copy of the entire collection of Seal and/or Sinatra?

More irritated that I thought I would be that I am going home tomorrow, instead of tonight, no thanks to the damned crashed KSRTC website. The few hours make a difference.

Yes, irritated! Very.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Here is Looking at You, Kid

Pic souce: internet

The other day I was watching The Holiday and realized that Jude Law is kinda cute, plus Kate Winslet is a beautiful actor. There is a reference in that really nice feel-good movie to Casablanca, one of the finest pieces of art in cinema. I knew I had to watch it yet again.

So Sunday afternoon was spent in the manner I mentioned in the post below, feet outstretched, with my back against the wall, watching Casablanca for the umpteenth time with the volume turned up and the curtains drawn. I watched it like it was the first time, such is the art of that film.

It's a very simple story, a love triangle that has been explored in cinema at least a million times. Rick Blaine is the cynical sentimentalist (Humphrey Bogart plays the oxymoron to perfection) who runs a saloon in Casablanca, Morocco, the transit point for people escaping from the war in Europe to free America during WWII. He wrinkles his forehead, lights up a cigarette and sips on gin through most of the film, managing to look intensely handsome all the while. Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman, so so beautiful), an ex from his days in Paris walks in one day with her husband, an underground revolutionary leader, both seeking the letters of transit that Rick is in possession of. What follows is the most gripping story with not a slack moment. Every frame of the film is a masterpiece, the pace of the story, the camera work, everything. There is a reason why Casablanca is in the list of every ten top movies ever made. Simply that it is one of those perfect products. I love the music too, love the way 'As time goes by' is played throughout as a leitmotif.

That and other Frank Sinatra is what is constantly playing in my house at the moment.

I miss Poorna sir, my college professor who taught us Film Studies, the one subject we were all absolutely in love with. There cannot be a better teacher than him. I miss his classes because that one year was when I learnt all that I know about good cinema. We watched the best movies then, some of the finest in Bengali, German, French and world cinema, from Kurosawa to De Sica to Ray to Makmalbaff to so many others. That was the time we saw into the techniques of cinema, dissected every frame and noticed every nuance. I no longer can do that. I miss it.

I wish I could watch Casablanca as a class again (I think we did..I forget) and spend a hot afternoon in the campus discussing the whys and whats of the film. But then, it is one film that you can watch without going into details like that and still marvel at its brilliance. There is probably more written about Casablanca than any other film, that is the kind of interest the movie has continued to evoke ever since its release in 1942. If you haven't already, watch it today.

There are rare times when it all comes together perfectly, the cast, the music, the story, the dialogues, the direction. There are rare movies that manage to appeal and still stand after the test of time, even nearly 70 years after it was made. Casablanca is one such.

Meanwhile, some quotes I love from it:

"I am not fighting for anything any more except myself. I'm the only cause I'm interested in."

"Play it again, Sam." (though these exact words are never spoken in the film, it continous to be associated with it.)

" Here is looking at you, kid." (But of course!)

"We will always have Paris."

...and so many others....

Here is what a reviewer online had to say:

There's a reason the world loves this wartime film, now digitally restored: more memorable dialogue than should be strictly legal, heartbreaking performances from the two leads and a plot that works with Swiss-watch precision.