Monthly Archives: April 2007

Homosexuality, Growth and Class in Edwardian England: Maurice

The 1987 Merchant-Ivory classic film Maurice, based on the EM Forster novel of the same name, explores the delicate subject of homosexual love long before Ang Lee made it fashionable—and does so with a touching bravery that one finds in few love stories. Maurice opens with a scene that is both telling and comic. A pale, fair-haired young boy (the young Maurice) and his well-meaning but garrulous teacher are at the beach. The teacher is trying to instruct the boy about sex and hastily draws a crude diagram in the sand to illustrate sexual intercourse. He emphasizes that having sex with a woman in order to procreate is one of the greatest joys known to man. The key words are ‘woman’ and ‘procreate’. The boy looks unconvinced. Continue reading


Filed under Culture, Film, Gender

On the Fireflies Festival of Music

The Fireflies Festival of Music last night was a wonderful experience. The Fireflies Ashram itself is charming and the setting was just right for a night of music under the stars (actually visible, for a change) in the open-air amphitheater. The stage was demarcated by a gorgeous, spreading Banyan tree whose abundant leaves and gnarled trunk formed a better backdrop than anything man-made could hope to. The lighting was beautiful and it added to the other-worldly atmosphere. The place reminded me a little bit of summer nights long ago at Pilani, JNU – places like that – when the air was rich with youth and freedom and the common spirit of loving something bigger than oneself. Continue reading


Filed under Bangalore, Culture, Photography

KK Raghava’s ‘Venice Suite’

A masked figure in shades of brilliant fuschia, coal black and gold looms over you as you enter the lovely, old-style main building at The Hatworks Boulevard. The painting, Masqueraders IV, is part of The Venice Suite, the latest collection from renowned young artist Raghava KK. The collection, which is inspired by Raghava’s travels to Venice is being exhibited at Crimson art gallery.At the preview, the exhibition was opened with a musical performance by Netra, who sang a few of her original compositions. Continue reading

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Alien: The Director’s Cut

The science fiction horror film Alien became a cult movie when it was released in 1979 and spawned an entire subgenre of movies called ‘body horror’. Director Ridley Scott, whose powerful vision was largely responsible for elevating this movie from an average B-grade flick to a movie masterpiece, is also responsible for what is commonplace in moviedom today—the director’s cut. Continue reading

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Hindi film, the other India and a growing schism

The Hindu Magazine on Sunday had an article called Cinema: In search of a new face, which I found very interesting. The writer Zia Us Salam explored the question of how “serious Hindi cinema, entrenched in real India, has died”. He is, of course, talking about parallel cinema of the 1970s and 80s, a movement that spawned movies like Manthan, Nishaant, Bhumika, and Mirch Masala, among others. It is true that this India, increasingly referred to as the ‘other India’, has very little representation in the artistic and cultural expressions of the current generation–and this is most visible in cinema.

Popular, commercial Bollywood movies have always catered to an urban or upper-class sensibility. Karan Johar, Rakeysh Mehra and Vidhu Vinod Chopra may serve up different aspects of this reality (or unreality) but their characters speak a similar language. Recently, even film makers who previously handled themes of poverty like Ketan Mehta (Mirch Masala) and Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay) have increasingly adopted a more global sensibility, either choosing more upper-class issues(Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake) or turning to the safe realm of historical biopics (Sardar, The Rising).

There are multiple problems in accurately representing the reality of an India where a majority of the people are still poor. Movies are a huge form of escapism in India; people seldom want to watch what they are trying so hard to avoid in real life. International viewers are interested only as long as it’s beautifully packaged with elements of exoticism, mystique, myth and folklore (Deepa Mehta did this very cleverly in Water, which is why her movie is an artistic success despite the fact that she passed off the quiet shores of Sri Lanka as Benares and two non-actors as her leads).

The Hindu article ends on this note:

Jabbar Patel, who recently revived “Ambedkar”, has the answer, “We have to find our identity afresh. The look of our films has to change. Poverty is there still in our country but it has to be explained in a different context.” Anybody ready to take the plunge?

Oneworld also has an interesting article on this here. “Where are the successors to the wonderful Salaam Bombay?” asks Bill Gunyon, the writer. He says:

Conflict with the British seems to make better box-office than conflict between rich and poor. Perhaps this will change as the wealth gap in India becomes more extreme and less acceptable.

I’m not sure about that. In fact, I think the opposite may just be true. As the gap becomes more extreme, the society we live in may become more schizophrenic with the realities of one having no bearing on the dreams of another. Increasingly hectic lifestyles leave people will less mental room to think about other people, not more. On a weekend, they would rather watch something they can relate to easily. The multiplex audiences are growing in importance and while they may be able to understand diaspora angst, forbidden love or even domestic violence in an urban family, Dalit or Devadasi problems are a universe away–and not one as enjoyable as Hogwarts.

The way forward, I would think, is to focus on presenting good stories with superior production values but setting it in a world other than bourgeoisie heaven. Combining the slickness of Yash Raj films with the realism of Ray or Benegal–but is that really possible?

What do you think?


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The Ganges, Calcutta and the Namesake

The SAJA Forum points to something interesting. NPR’s “Morning Edition” has been running a series called “The Ganges: A Journey Into India”. The entire audio and a series of diary entries from Reeves is available on the NPR website, along with photos by Heathcliff O’Malley. I found this one particularly interesting because inexplicably, Calcutta is (sort of) home. This made me chuckle, especially the last line:

But Bengalis see the place slightly differently: They also consider Calcutta — or Kolkata, as they now call it — to be India’s cultural capital and the habitat of an important species: intellectuals.

They refer in conversation to “intellectuals” as if they are a separate class, a professional category like generals or astronauts. Continue reading


Filed under Culture, Film, Personal, Places

HT’s new look

Nithya drew my attention to the new look of the Hindustan Times website. She points out that it looks a lot like the NYT website and yes, it does (including masthead and font size). It has an appealing freshness though and is easy on the eye. I don’t visit HT very regularly because it has no local news obviously (there is no Bangalore edition). But the new look might just change that. I can’t resist a well-designed website. So what if the idea is…er, borrowed. Continue reading

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A Giant Leap Backwards

State governments in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh have banned sex education in schools. This is despite the central government’s attempt to make it compulsory from standard six, next academic year onwards. The explanations for this ban rest on the usual pillars of obscenity and objectionable material. The minds of young children can be irreparably harmed if they learn about sex, according to our esteemed ministers. In Karnataka, RSS leader and former MLC K Narahari backed Basavaraj Horatti, Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, saying students would be better off attending classes on moral education than sex education. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan feels that youngsters need yoga lessons instead. Never mind that these youngsters are hurtling into puberty, eager for information on sex and quite willing to look for it elsewhere. Continue reading

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