Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Love, Sex aur Dhokha: Directed by Dibakar Bannerjee.

I have a confession to make. I knew I would love LSD way before it was even released. Part of the reason to this was my complete, and absolute, adulation of Dibakar Bannerjee. Having fallen in love with him Post-Khosla ka Ghosla and Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, it would be pretty difficult for me to feel let down by his work. And of course, it would be almost implausible for him to make disappointing art.
There is a lot you have heard about LSD, and most of it is not true. If you watch the film with that assumption, life just gets easier. There is virtually no sex, thus rendering the very title of the film useless and ironical. The film is not a documentary, a myth that hasn't failed to amuse me since I first heard it. And of course, the film is based on real life incidents. Just not these.
LSD is basically divided into three storylines: Love, Sex and Dhokha. Each plot is resonant of something you have read about, something you have heard, or worse still, something that has happened to you. In this world of voyeurism and new technology, how do we live without being exploited? Do we come to know when we are being exploited?

Apart from the masterful direction and editing (how I love a taut film!), perhaps what worked for me most was the singular aspect of not being too preachy or all-too-moralistic. To me, the film was more about the culture we are in the process of acquiring rather than the culture that we have given up. That treatment awarded was the defining moment for me. A film is no doubt about the filmmaker and his perception, but when his opinion stays throughout without him having to proclaim and take a moral stand is when I have officially lost my heart.
To me, LSD remains an angry film. Not just in the violence and voyeurism, but even in acts of love, acts of selfless help and in acts of revenge. It comes through very clearly that Dibakar was angry at the sudden influx and influence of voyeurism in contemporary society and was as much amazed by the phenomenon as he was perplexed. In an interview promoting the film, Dibakar says he was surprised that all of a sudden, there are rules that govern social life, relationships, sex life, family life and the vogue. Suddenly, there is this huge internet revolution, and you have to do everything you can to avoid being labelled a 'frigid' or in other, more swanky terms, 'behenji'. The assumption that the film is only about sex and sexuality in deeply rooted in the Great Indian Diaspora. Enough said.
Also, LSD is more than just about making a statement of how this psycho-sociological disorder can wreck our lives. It is physically creepy. There is a part of me which is still reeling from an over-bearing terror. What if I were cut into 30 pieces for doing what I wanted to? What if I were to land up falling in love with a sado-masochist misogynist? And what if I were to be part of a deception so huge words fail to describe it?
This crushing realisation of failure and fear governs our life today. There is no way we can escape hidden cameras. No way we can ask that creepy man at the petrol pump to not click a picture. With technology, easy access to aforementioned technology, there also comes vulnerability. It hurts just admitting that I am in fact, very vulnerable to such violence and abuse.
And as I sat there, watching a too-short film pertaining to issues we hardly talk about (but experience, nonetheless), I felt a sense of shame. Shame for the society I am living in, shame for myself for daring to live in such a society and finally, a gnawing sense of apprehension.
Before I forget, Sneha Khanwalkar deserves more than a mere mention for doing such a brilliant job with the music. Also, the screenplay is done in a way I could only expect out of filmmakers like Dibakar.
Would I suggest LSD to anyone? Oh yes. Watch it for being explicit (and for not treating everything as clandestine), watch it for shrugging off the pretentious. Most importantly, watch it for yourself.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Remembering Benjamin.

It suprises me, every day, how much of a genius George Orwell really was. Proof lies in his beautiful, and strangely poignant works, 1984, A Clergyman's Daughter and Animal Farm. Each work is so distinct and so skillfully written I cannot pick and choose a favourite.
Perhaps what strikes me most wonderfully about any of his work, whether a short story or a full fledged 'novel', is the sheer dystopia. Enough of the utopian world, I say. Let's face it, the world we live in is bleak, and there is no limit to how cynical we are forced to get. Then why the reluctance to admit the same?
But this is not about letting my derisive self take over. I write to reminiscence.
The first time I read Animal Farm was when I was a naive 13 year old, and fell so hard for Boxer that I cried when he died. It is only with a little embarrassment that I admit that I cry each time Boxer is taken away. It is so sad, he was just a poor old horse. Now though, my absolute favourite is Benjamin, the aged donkey.
Touted as grumpy and grouchy, Benjamin promised me he was sane, and had some sense in him. In an analogous comparison with the history of Communism, Benjamin is part of the Mensheviks and represents any faction that has not been swayed by the enchating false promises of Communists. Socialism/Communism starts off as a euphemism to all things fair, all things just and simultaneously, all things which you wanted.
And yet.
For those of you who are not familiar with the plot, I shall not divulge anything (If you do not mind me being impudent though, please rent a copy and read it). Benjamin, though he may appear to be misanthropic at first, is virtually unaffected by any effects of propaganda directed at the poor, unsuspecting animals, whether it comes via Napoleon (the pig) or via Squealer. All he ever says, at being asked why he doesn't support the Revolution, is: "Donkeys live a long time. None of you has ever seen a dead donkey." This one sentence that he oft repeats is actually deeply seated in symbolism. He is definitely more experienced, and by way of the cynicism, is trying to convey to the other animals that Communism/Capitalism/even Liberalism are all a farce. All that you have left is a hope for a better day, and all you get to pick is between the aforementioned sham.
And it is not that Benjamin isn't intelligent. He is as smart as, if not more, than the bourgeoisie pigs.He can read perfectly well, and yet chooses not to advise the animals when they are being sucked into the vortex of their own ignorance. Is that selfish? Or can that be construed as a benevolent gesture, making the animals learn on their own, freeing them from another imposed opinion? It gives me great joy to think that Orwell himself was not too sure.
Lest it be assumed that Benjamin was a heartless, anti-social (hah!) creature, I feel the restless need to intervene your line of thought. Benjamin is sensitive, and loves Boxer (which makes him even better, in my eyes!) and the matriarch, Clover. His reaction to Boxer being taken away has been seen by many critics as delayed, and removed. I could not disagree more. We know Benjamin is not impetous, or impulsive. We know by now that spontaneity doesn't govern him the way it did other animals (hence the ultimate tragedy they get into). When Benjamin paused, he was composing himself, for he knew Boxer was not coming back. It was actually simple logic. Boxer was the working class, the proletariat. And the bourgeoisie wanted a crate of beer in exchange for his tired limbs.
Yes, I am fawning over a donkey. But when he is so intelligent, is it really all that wrong of me to?

Monday, March 15, 2010


If you haven't noticed yet, I am a confirmed, obsessive retrophile.
And I think it is too late to change.

Ah, Dior. I love you, John Galliano. Only, I loved Mr.Dior more.

What I would not give to own this car. In this exact same setting.

To think this was Vogue. What happened? And yes, I am Dior obsessed. Look at how stunning this is. How could I not?

I absolutely had to end with a burst of colour.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Precious: Based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire.

There has already been enough written and spoken coverage of the movie, 'Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire' that I feel horribly late, and worse still, naive.
In my defence though, I was dreading watching this film out of sheer apprehension. Not someone to physically weep because of a movie, it is obvious why I didn't wish to blemish that one characteristic of mine.
But when I did get over my anxiety, I realised I had to see it. In one sitting.
Portrayed beautifully by Gabourey Sidibe, Claireece Precious Jones is overweight, illiterate, and abused sexually and physically at home. She ceases to exist, and becomes an object to which things are done. Her rapist, incestuous father, who impregnated her twice, and began the assault when she was only three. Her abusive, unemployed and disgruntled mother, ironically named Mary (played by Monique), who is angry with her for stealing a man. For being obese. For simply existing.

It is in this context that Precious(as she is fondly called) is introduced to the anxious viewer. Through a horrifying glimpse into the incest, we first see her father raping her, while her mother watches in the background. It is also here that we come to know of her latent desires, of being famous, of being beautiful, and of being loved for the right reasons.
Her escapes into this world are heart-wrenching, to say the least. To see how sad one child could be gnaws at you, and then keeps you at your toes.
Precious is expelled from school, for being pregnant again, at the nubile age of sixteen. There on, she joins an alternative school where she meets her beautiful teacher, Miss Blu Rain, and confides in her. She begins to learn, to find solace in the English alphabet. And she writes. Writes about what she feels. All this while, her mother hits her with airborne objects, slaps her, makes her hog. And then Mary calls Precious names, while simultaneously blaming her for taking away her 'man'. As much as I am tempted to, I will refrain from ruining the plot for you.
Precious' story is not extraordinary, it is her circumstances that make it so. Her mother refuses to acknowledge rape, she herself is so confused and so violated she doesn't know what to do, what to say, how to react. She doesn't speak in class, and on the occassion that she does, she finds it difficult to look anyone in the eye. Yes, she is a destroyed child, but she is more than that. She is beautiful and intelligent. What makes the movie for me is the fact that Lee Daniels let Precious be beautiful, intelligent, smart and a caring mother while still showing how much she has been affected by the perils of family life.
The portrayal of the intensely complex mother-daughter relationship was taut and resisted the impulse to be overly melodramatic. No, Mary doesn't hate Precious. She is jealous of her, she is jealous of her own grandchildren. Mary, too, is a woman who has been hardened by life. You almost don't hate her for treating her child like a beast. But then, each time she gets into a physical fight, you want her to keel over.
I admit, I weeped like a little girl. A child (that is what she is!) is sucked into a vortex of hatred for herself and family, without ever realising that there are people who love her. There are people who want her to live. She looks into a mirror and wants to see a skinny white blond 'bitch' staring right back at her. She herself wants to be skinny, thanks to the innumerable comments and criticisms she has received for her weight.
At some point during the movie though, it stops being about her weight. I couldn't care less if she weighed 62 pounds(yes, there is a model who weighs that much). What I did want, and care about was hugging the poor child. Hugging her to let her know someone will be there.
Honestly, I cannot imagine how I would react if I were Claireece. Would I be the same? I think not. I am too small a person to even begin to comprehend being in her shoes.
The one segment/shot that made me smile and cry, together, was when Precious escapes with her son, is walking along the subway platform and chants the alphabet. She seems to be in a trance, and latches on to the hope of being an educated and intelligent mother to her children.
It was then that her short future was laid out for the mute audience.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Vivien Leigh

Vivien Leigh has to be the most stunning woman I have ever seen.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Your Size, My Size?

If there is one pressure most women agree they feel through the majority of their lives, it is the need to be thin. What thin is, or what thin enough is, we do not know. Perhaps everyone I know has been through a phase where they were on a diet that involved shutting off food, or have pounded that treadmill for hours on end. I, myself, have been part of that large, large collective. In my defence, though, I was young, and consequently, naive.

Thinking back now, I have to say, this apprehension regarding our bodies is probably inherent. Society, that vile concoction, has told us time and again. We need to be thin, or atleast, 'average' sized. Once again, the ramifications of those terms escape me. To think this process of angst toward your own body is a by-product of something your parents and your immediate family instigates in you is chilling, to say the least.
As you grow up, and become more foolish by the day, all those contrived mediums of propagating hatred strive to make sure you hate yourself, your guts for biting into an apple. Our hatred fuels their profit. It is actually cold, clear logic. The more you despise yourself, the more some corporate gains out of you spending on pills, lotions, exercise machines, and even clothes that are maybe too small.
But, while I do enjoy corporate-bashing, I must not digress.
The only question I am raising here, to myself, is the one question which is of absolute significance. Whatever happened to individuality? Why can't a woman be the size she wants to be and be happy with it? For the life of me, I do not understand the notion that you have to be reed thin to fit into the socially acceptable definition of beautiful, attractive or plain pretty. As far as my confused existence is concerned, there really are no rules which say that a woman has to slog herself to death to gain acceptance from strangers. Why is it then that people who have some flesh on their scrawny bones have to murmur something about being big-boned so as to avoid being judged? Why is it then that a Christina Hendricks is seen as an anomaly in that utterly perplexing world of beauty? And why is it that every time you Google Gabourey Sidibe, 6,40,000 results regarding her weight show up?
Perhaps we are just raring to judge and to cast aspersions on people who are comfortable with how they look, what they weigh. The fairness, and the politics to that, we will never know. We are not supposed to.
Before I am criticised for trying to justify and encourage obesity, I would like to clarify my stance. No, I am not doing anything of the sort. Obesity is unhealthy and rampant. But so is anorexia. And bulimia. And BDD. It is sad to note how many, many young people are falling prey to mistaken perceptions about themselves. And yet, the onus is not on being fit, or even being healthy. Oh, that dreaded word! Laziness, or remaining inactive, is not my proposed alternative to this madness inducing regime people are adopting. Hardly.
But is it correct, or even fair, to burden someone with the realisation of constantly having to lose weight when they take a walk, or when they are swimming? Where is the fun in that? And where, pray, is the fun in homogeneity?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Persepolis: The story of a Childhood

Marjane Satrapi is perhaps best known for being the protagonist in the movie, Persepolis, based on her own life. Persepolis, literally meaning a town in Iran (ancient Persia), near Shiraz, is originally an autobiography of Marjane. The form is that of a graphic novel (black and white cartoon strips if you will), a growingly popular style in literature.

Like the name suggests, the book traces Marjane’s life through the years and the difficult times during the Iranian Revolution (1979). She is born to revolutionary agnostic parents, who protest against the tyrannical government and do their best to inculcate in Marjane the same values. Marjane lives in a close-knit family comprising her parents and grandmother, and is perhaps closest to her grandmother. The recurring theme in Persepolis is the precocious curiosity that Marjane has towards life. She is not someone who sits by and accepts the imposition of the veil, or can live with the restrictions that the new regime had bought about. She, like every other child, wanted her freedom, wanted to be curious, and most of all, wanted answers to what is happening around her. To control the Communist revolutionaries’ protests, the government resorted to bombing entire streets. It was due to having a close shave with the bombings and the fact that all French schools were shut down that Marjane was sent to school in Austria by her parents to escape the hegemonic regime prevalent in Iran by acquiring a sound education. Her story moves on from there, a story of misguided love, a story of mistaken identity and pangs of guilt.

What is perhaps most striking about the book are the illustrations. The simplicity and lucidity attacks you, and leaves you wounded. Her story is a common one, it invokes reactions from all of us who have had to choose between passions, have had to face confines in life or have used escapism as a means to protect ourselves. And yet, there is something so non-contrived about Persepolis that it will move you, make you cry and laugh, all at the same time!

The issues that Marjane raises are omnipresent, yet very difficult to resolve. The issue of female liberation, for instance, is a gnawing one, especially in Asian countries. She stands up against all of the ridiculous measures imposed by the then government and strives to become a free-thinker. There is also a question of returning to where you belong, not forgetting your roots. It is difficult and painful for Marjane to leave her homeland, and yet she wants to leave her tumultuous past behind and move with her life, while taking on a French identity.

Persepolis is a hauntingly beautiful novel that stays with you for days after you read it. It makes you question, and introspect on the little things that make up life as we know it. A coming of age novel that would leave an impression on you, that’s Persepolis.