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I 'write a little everyday, without hope, without despair' as per Isak Dinesen. I aim to write a little more than a little.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The House of Blue Mangoes

and Why it doesn't work for me

1) bowing deeply (pg 67) drank deeply (pg 67) jumped with a huge splash into the deepest part of the pool (68) deep sense of contentment (pg 68)

2) narrow tarred road that stands out like a fresh scar on the red soil (pg 3)

3) Despite his disability, Joshua Dorai was one of those men who walked lightly upon the earth, seemingly without a care. (pg 99)

4) About Summer - dead white eye of the sun.. enamel the sky with heat and glare until they burned - (pg 79)

5) udukkai drum (pg 74) udukai (pg 75)

6) European food... mulligatawny soup (pg 86)

7) as dawn came crowding through the night (pg 96)

8) 'Rather a drastic solution, but that's always been your way,' said Solomon drily. (pg 101)

9) Hitler's Lebensraum paralleled with the idea of the Vedic times' Aswameda yagnam. (pg 280)

10) smeared his face in the dirt (pg 279)

The list is endless, so I'll stop here to save more agony of looking for gaffes. To cap it all, after resisting the temptation for over 45o pages, the author finally gives into the inevitable and in the very last page compares the neelam mango to a woman's breast.

Finally finished it; it was a real struggle to plod on, without giving up. To sum up, The House of Blue Mangoes is a long string of tedious superlatives.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Suitable Boy

by Vikram Seth

I'm re-reading it, and its magic is taking hold all over again. Deceptively simple language; the narrative voice seductively takes my hand and leads me through door after door in a maze opening into rooms filled with delectable treasures as acsessible as the touch and handle objects in a children's museum.

Reading his interviews, one learns that Seth spent the better part of a decade labouring on each sentence of his 1349 page saga, refining and refining till it flowed as easily as a merry brook.

He returned to his parents' home to write the book and spent most of his thirties there. Like a baby returning to its mother's womb to begin the process of labour all over again to be born anew. Kinda gross I know, but that's what it feels like. Can't wait to count ten fingers and ten toes and lie back with exhausted relief.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Clockwork Orange

Stanley Kubrick

One of the most arresting opening shots that I've ever seen. Eerie doll-like face of our young narrator and hero, as if not just from another time, but from another species alltogether, in that utterly blank unemotional look, with the pantomime eyelashes on the right eyelid.

So right from this 'Establishing' shot, (I use the term knowingly in the wrong sense, as it establishes not the physical setting of the film, but the person of the hero, his very soullessness), till the very end of the film, I did not feel an iota of empathy with the hero.

You might of course argue that the whole point of the thing is he's monster, and canot be sympathised with. Bollocks to that. Even if it is a serial killer psycho-sociopath, as long as he is the protagonist, the audience has to identify with him. The enduring beauty of an 'absurd' play like 'Waiting for Godot' is due to that every single person who watches/reads it identifies to some extent (large extent, i would insist) with the utterly unreliable disease ridden slightly insane tramps, Estragon and Vladimir. Because they are helpless?

Our hero is certainly not.
Our lad is so bloody hard to find resonance with. Not only is he extremely goodlooking and unhealthily young and robust, he is leader of his gang, loved by his parents, fucked by pretty girls he seems to pick up with ease, and utterly indestructible.

Agreed that its all smooth sailing and he is indestructible till the double cross, but what was disappointing to me, is that the director fails to show that the heor actually falls after the turning point. he still glides indestructibly through, and remains so even when the credits roll up. There is absolutely no transformation. There is no addition to the boy's personality. So many adventures, and nothing to show in the end.

Telling places: when his counsellor hits him hard on his groin, it did not elicit a phantom wince in me (girl or boy, we all sympathise with this one particular thing). And he recovers his composure in a minute!

His friends strike him on the face, leaving pnly a small nick on his nose to double cross him.

The police men, in the interrogation cell, only just give him a small nick on the already existing scratch on the nose (pooh), and he seems to glide above prison horrors untouched. He is a favourite of the priest, and the one guy who distrusts him, the bellowing officer, is helpless (though he runs the damn prison).

The only scene i came real close to feeling sympathy for the hero, was when he enters prison and is asked by the bellowing officer to turn in his personal stuff. the facade cracks just a teeny bit, till the smoothness slips on too soon.

I would think (Will Anthony Burgess who wrote the book agree with me?) that a most strident effort should've been made us identify with the hero who is a rapist and lives for 'ultra-violence' and Ludvig Van (Beethoven), show us his soft spots, show how his mind works, why he seems to adore violence, move us, so that we will inturn be horrified by the latent violence lurking within ourselves.

Is that difficult? I'm no expert on film-making, but as far as characterisation goes, if we could perceive small chinks in the man, show him fumble a bit here and a bit there, have him fail at picking a girl up, or show him really suffer at the hands of the counsellor or policemen (he does suffer when his friends turned poice in the latter half beat him up, but by then its too late, we simply do not identify wit hhim anymore), I don't know, show is parents to be hideous, show the root of his violent tendencies, show more of his passion for Beethoven, or more of his love for his snake... , in short, show him more of a human being with violent tendencies rather than an unruffled machine programmed for violence?

Oh, i seem to be stuck to the one aspect of the movie, but to me, that is the most important, the only important element in the exercise. We ought to be horrified at the violet tendecies brimming within ourselves.., isnt the boy the face of our heinous tendencies, our society bred callousness? So why do not we see ourselves in him?

It seems to be a sorta insolence that Stanley Kubrick said he didnt realise the final chapter of the book had the hero renounce violence, as it was cut out of the american edition, till he almost finished the screenplay. And that even after, he didnt consider filming it. WTF? Not even a consideration? (Needlessly Bitchy I know)

Having said so much (about one thing only, admittedly), I'm eager to read the book and compare it with film.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Sea

John Banville

The waves seemed to trill, dazzling in the bright sunshine, lapping my limbs, awash. Snoodling canoodling over my broken arms, broken body..., mending spirit. Oh beauteous beauteuos aquamarine shores, rows and rows of ephemereal, ullulate, ullulte the soul. Soul.

What a beginning to what an end. Like Banville said after the Booker ceremony, it is indeed the triumph of art, of literary fiction, winning this prize. It redeems us all. Gives such hope. You can write poetic prose, be accused of 'overwriting', and still needn't despair. Hmm, my classmates told me the same thing a few times. Rejoice, give grass blades wings, exhaust pipes new lease of life, slicing elbows razor vision.

I appreaciate minimalism, maximalism and everything in between, and believe that as long as you are confident, you can pull it off. And as long as it's first rate. Like Banville's book is.

Btw, The first paragraph is not Banville's, it's my pathetic attempt at a homage to The Sea.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

400 Blows

Les Quatre Cents Coups
François Truffaut

Intricate, yet unintrusive shots, angles, pans.
The tracking shot of the boy (played by Jean-Pierre Léaud)running from the juvenile camp towards the sea is beautiful. There is something about shots of people running, or any creature running, that I find utterly fascinating. And of course film tutors will stress on the street shot of kids disappearing from behind the PT master as he jogs on ahead, oblivious to the fact that most of the kids have deserted him.

Léaud is a pleasure to watch, but I don't know why I like his best friend better. He seemed to have more life in him as an actor. But I supposed Truffaut picked one that more closely resembled him, to cast as his alter-ego.

The characters; what few strokes to make them; and how effective they are. The mother especially, is sheer brilliance. She is so real that I still can't get her out of my head. The step-father elicits pity, for he knows not what he does. The best friend won my heart with his frustated shrug when he isn't allowed to enter the detention centre to meet his friend.

The existentialistic principle is so muted, that it could be safely ignored. not like Jules et Jim, that showcases the absurdity of relationships so vehemently that it took a lot of effort to reconcile myself to the idea. There is so much hope in this film(400 blows), so much hope in the sight of the ovewhelming sea, in the boy's very youth, in his deep (for their years)friendship with his intelligent friend, so muc hope in that he was able to escape the centre in the end, even if temporarily. It's easy to perceive that and be satisfied in the illusion than by watching Jules et Jim that seeks to draw it out of you only to shatter into wretched little pieces.