Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Summer of Love


There is not much to be said about the guy who is now my husband. Or, just this that he makes me happy.



It is strange that I am dedicating a blog to my husband. For one I usually don't feel excited writing about my personal life. Two, I still introduce him to friends as my boyfriend (for lack of a better word). Also I do not know if I actually think of him as my "husband." I know he heals my insanity, he treasures my dreams, he admires my craziness, he inspires me to achieve everything I want but I have never paused to think if all that makes him an endearing husband. He is my "love"- that is more like it.

So in my otherwise long-distance relationship, this summer shines out sparklingly. As I studied for long hours preparing for my Qualifying Examinations he cooked all the meals and let me study. Over summer I have definitely grown more fond of him. (No ! Not because he cooked) I guess it is important to be be fond of someone you have been wedded to. Also the word "love" comes with immense amount of baggage but somehow fondness does not and it surely helps a marriage survive. Fondness I think allows more space for things going wrong, love is less tolerant and more messy. So my fondness-based relationship blossomed this summer.

In the hope that this relationship will see more summers here are few things I have learned -

1. It is stupid to evaluate/explain why you fell in love and what exactly made you fall in love. Or stupid to dwell on it too much. Make a list of 5 things that made you fall in love and ask yourself if you were to find the same in some other person would you fall in love with him/her as well ?

2. It is good to get angry and let it out but anger should not cause permanent damage. It should not take you on a path retreating from which will be difficult.

3. Share everything with your partner. EVERYTHING can be shocking, can cause sleepless nights, can bring tears but EVERYTHING is a MUST. If you do not agree with me and still have a happy marriage formula we are different people then.

4. Always do fun things. I like watching movies and he loves watching news. We do both. We cook together. We travel. We even read together, sometimes.

5. Do not forget your friends. Have a life outside marriage. a. It will make you a better person if your friends still find you accessible. b. It works wonders for your marriage if your partner sees in you a good person.

6. Never fail to impress. I have often wondered if my mother loved me because I am her daughter or she respects me as a person. I follow the same rule in my relationship with him. I surprise him and make an effort to impress him. In the process I achieve satisfaction for myself. I end up polishing my various other creative abilities. I finish a painting, I compose a poem, I bake bread.

7. Remember that your guy/girl has a family where you are not the only one. Never make him/her choose. As you find space for yourself- give them their due space.

8. In life there are many battles to be won. Get your partner on your side of the battle and then pursue your impossible dreams and battle them. Continue to follow your dreams.

9. Do not live a marriage-centered life.

10. If you do not know what marriage is about do not waste your energy figuring it out.

There is much to be said about my husband but everything cannot be said. But at least one thing must be said. He wants me to be the best I can be. He brings out the very best in me.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dasvidaniya and Dostana : Mapping Change in Bollywood.

I just thought before the year ends- I should write at least one more blog.

Just finished watching two Hindi films, Dasvidaniya ("Good-Bye" in Russian) and Dostana (friendship, or close to that). I liked the first one (DAS) and did not like the second one (DOS). DAS is about a 37 yr old guy, played by the versatile Vinay Pathak, who has not done anything very exciting in his life for a long time (his childhood seems to have been fun) and then he finds out he has cancer and has only a few weeks to live. Sort of a Anand and The Bucket List film in the sense that it is about living your life to the fullest and fulfilling every wish in life, but it is original in its attempts to deal with this cliche. DOS, on the other hand is a cliched Johar production, portraying the cliche of how gay men are perfect and easy objects for comedy. The two heroes in the movie lie, in order to get a rented apt, whose owner is Priyanka Chopra. The lie is that the guys, Abhishek and John are gays. Not surprisingly, they both fall in love with Priyanka and Priyanka with another straight man, Bobby Deol. Not surprisingly again, Bobby and Priyanka live happily ever after and Abhishek, John and Priyanka remain best friends. DAS has something in it that will touch your heart, especially the scene where Vinay fulfills his first wish and buys a car. The scene where he breaks the news to his overjoyed mother is beautiful, spontaneous and a piece of great acting/direction. DOS is ok in some parts but most other parts the humor is unbearable. It is a sorry portrayal of wannabe-gays. The acting could not be more mediocre. Both Abhishek and John are good actors and Priyanka acted quite well in Karam. So clearly it is the director's fault. He could not get the best out from his actors.

So what is "mapping change" all about - I am trying to understand if these movies and the responses to these movies reflect anything bigger than the movies -

1. Good bodies and bikinis will not be enough. Substance maangta hain. DOS has no substance. DAS contrasts in having a more genuine desire to create a context, a space, a dialogue that can engage the audience.

2. Miami, Paris, Sydney - is all fine but they are only the backdrop. DOS has the beaches, the girls, the cars, the outfits but DAS has the typical middle class Mumbaiya flat, with sunmica showcases, unmatching curtains, the busy roads, thaali foods. The setting, in DAS, is an essential part of the life that Vinay lives. In DOS, the story can be picked up and placed in any other city and it would not have made the slightest difference. The need for the background, which is Miami, is not established.

3. Some kind of a touch with reality still sells better than malfunctioning (or let me be kinder, hard-to-believe) fiction. Abhishek never goes to work, except for once. Priyanka is 27 and an editor in a magazine and has a house that is impossible to have. Also, her office has many Americans, but the bosses are always Indians. The American "public" spaces as usual are determined by what Johars of Bollywood think which is a far cry from reality. The cheering crowd who encourage Abhishek and John to kiss each other to prove themselves to their best friend, is so mythical. (I remember Julia Robert and Meg Ryan's confrontation in a ladies restroom in My Best Friend's Wedding. The involvement of the other ladies is carefully worked on. DOS comes nowhere near).

4. Stars do not sell - Acting does. DAS has great performances by Neha Dhupia (am pleasantly surprised), and veteran actor, Sarita Joshi, as Vinay's crazy mother, is a delight to watch. In contrast, Kirron Kher and Susmita Mukherjee do what they best do, create melodrama and that too with no new element.

In conclusion, I would like to recommend both these films to understand the change that I am talking about. The release of both these films is coincidental. However, given this coincidence, it gives us an opportunity to understand and appreciate low-budget movies like Dasvidaniya to make sure that directors and big production houses cannot take the Indian audience for a ride. When I was seeing Dostana I actually felt someone was insulting my intelligence.

These apply not just to BOLLYWOOD - I also saw Quantum of Solace. I would also put it in the DOS category.

Disclaimer - Having written this blog now, I feel that I almost sound as if DOS was intentionally meant to be a callous attempt. I take that HINT back. I know of many good directors and producers who have made very good and very bad films.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Book Review. Virginia Woolfe by Hermione Lee



Lee, Hermionee. Virginia Woolf. (London : Chatto & Windus, 1996).

Hermione Lee, biographer, Virginia Woolf, did not get an opportunity to read Woolf in her Oxford English course. The faculty considered Woolf to be a “minor modernist,” not to be classed with Joyce and Eliot. Thankfully, Lee did not take the classification too seriously. From having an incurable “illness” that intermittently tormented her, both physically as well as emotionally, to impersonating Hitler in the midst of an orchestrated Nazi procession in Germany, Woolf’s (1882-1941) portrayal in the biography elicits myriad responses: amazement, appreciation, introspection, and even sympathy and tears. Lee accomplishes a remarkable feat through the biography by connecting Woolf’s “soul” with the “social and class pressures” she experienced, following Woolf’s advice on biography writing.

Virginia Woolf, an extremely difficult biography to write given that the subject never understood herself, and made suicide attempts many times in her life, nevertheless places Woolf alongside Joyce, if not higher. Unarguably, Woolf’s works itself, speak for her lofty literary caliber. In Virginia Woolf, Lee investigates reflections and vestiges of incidents, emotions and opinions that Woolf experienced, and locates them in characters and plots that Woolf constructed. As a result, the study of Woolf’s life as an integral part of her work becomes essential. For instance, Lee traces the similarity between Julia, Woolf’s mother’s passing away and that of Mrs Ramsay’s in To The Lighthouse. Lee structures the biography thematically and also chronologically. A part of Woolf’s life serves as the pivotal theme-point in each chapter, around which the rest of her life gets displayed. For instance, the chapter “Press,” centers on the joint initiative of the Woolfs and the foundation of the Hogart Press in 1917 but goes beyond publications and enterprise as Lee describes “And the story of the Press is, in a way, the story of their marriage…”

“Afraid of not being intelligent enough for her,” Lee engages in an effort to write as beautifully and intelligently as Woolf. A generous display of Woolf’s writings from novels, letters, diaries, presents a formidable challenge to Lee in this friendly competition, but she succeeds, maybe not effortlessly. Lee’s description of how the Woolfs decorated Monk’s House creates an indelible impression on the minds of the readers, while her assessment that “marriage and death were counter forces” in Woolf’s life reflects Lee’s sharp analytical prowess. If words of Woolf allow the readers to get a flavor of Woolf, first-hand, Lee’s notes, “new ink,” “new page,” and “left hand corner” leave the readers just short of holding the manuscript. The biography transports readers to Woolf’s world and there lies its greatest accomplishment.

This piece has been contributed by my sister, Parama Chaudhuri.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Johnny Gaddaar : Film Review

Sriram Raghavan did a great job with Johnny Gaddaar. In fact a few days after I saw Ek Haseena Thi (Raghavan's first film), I was pretty sad wondering if the guy would ever get a chance to make a second movie. I loved Ek Haseena Thi but it did not do well at the box office. That did surprise me but ah ! well ! I was very impressed with the intelligent script and Saif's good looks. I loved the ending.
Coming to Johnny Gaddaar (JG), first a taste of the story line and then my analysis. The film revolves around a gang of five men, from different age groups, with different occupations and spectacularly different characteristics. What brought them together was a desire to make more money, easy money. "Easy" is the wrong word. Quick money. The movie starts with all of them putting in money together to invest in a deal. The movie really starts when one of them decides to steal the money before the money reaches the dealer. How does he do it ? HE (am not disclosing) plans something but things do not go according to his plan. Be it unintended murders, slip of tongue, instant decisions, irresponsible lying - the audience will never be able to guess what is there on HIS mind. Sometimes HE does not know it himself. A very careful sense of humor rendered by Dharamji as also Vinay Pathak; degrees of romance, be it between Vikram and his girl friend, between Dharamaji and his late wife, OR the absence of romance in Ashwini Kalsekar's marital life, with his wife cheating on him; a sufficient number of bar dancers (quite hot looking girls) and just the right amount of blood shedding - the movie is a complete paisa and time wasool. I add the "time" part of it because it cost me nothing to see the movie. That is another story.

So the movie is awesome. No one can get bored, partly because you will always labour to anticipate what will happen next and you will not know it (unless you are watching it the second time) and so you will keep labouring even harder. In all this exercise you will forget about getting bored. If you are a Hindi film buff this is just the movie. It has the essential bits that will contribute to its success. Reference to Hindi blockbusters is a great technique. Even You've Got Mail had frequent reference to Godfather and it worked well. A scene from JG will, rather should remind you of Anand's last scene. There were too many....

Performances are good. Dharamji is quite good in the film, specially after his horrible performance in Life in a Metro ( WHY did he and Nafisa have to be in that movie? That movie was good for the most part but I can never appreciate plagiarism. The main story in the movie was a scene by scene lift from the Academy Award wining film The Apartment . 1950s. Mr Director must have thought no one would have seen that movie. ) Dharam Paaji needed this film. Vinay Pathak and Ashwini Kalsekar are good actors. Vikram, the introducing-so-and-so guy, was OK. He will not make it big, though. He does not have too many expressions. He can do reasonably good butt works but unless he is playing a gay or a transvestite in his next film, which seems like a remote possibility, he has little chance. He played this role alright.

The execution of the movie is superb. Like Forrest Gump (feather blowing in the wind) and some more films the movie starts and ends with the same scenes. In the context of JG, it showed the triviality of the story told and yet magnetic quality it had. It did not end on some great note (surprise note, YES) but the entire stretch was so good, 'the coming of the police' did not have to happen in the end. The movie also reminded me of True Romance ( a must watch film for people who are serious about cinema). No sneaky lift there. Adequate in its doses of love scenes, the plot of both the movies intertwines itself around the leading couple but ends as if it did not matter. The script is quite authoritarian. It does not answer all questions. By the end the audience is prepared to be led.

Movies such as this and Bheja Fry in combination with movies such as Chak De India appeal to me as conforming that we are almost into the Golden Age of Bollywood. How long shall we keep repeating borrowed intellectual lines like " the lyrics of yester-years were amazing...lyrics today make no sense." We need to have movies that run because of the script mainly, without big stars. We also need to see King Khan once in a while. Even better if he is not crying and instead leading a team of bright, witty, women hockey players. WATCH JG.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Freedom At Midnight

My last blog was posted in July. This is almost October. This is my first book review. Am reading Kafka on the Shore now. May be a review of that will follow as well. Read on...

Collins, Larry and Lapierre, Dominique. Freedom at Midnight. Harper Collins Publishers Ltd., 1997.

The history of twentieth-century colonial India is a complicated yet fascinating one. Within the span of half a century the British rose to the heights of imperialism and almost during the same time reversed the process by releasing India from its imperialistic shackles in 1947. Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre published in 1976 pays a brilliant tribute to the cataclysmic times and paints a lively image of the characters who became in many ways the prime architects of the years that led to 1947-48. Beginning its narration with the melancholic London winter of 1947, made even more so by the loss of India that as Churchill pointed out reduced England to the “scab of a minor power,” and ending with Gandhi’s assassination, Collins and Lapierre portray the history of two years enriching them with lesser known but interesting facts, making it a fascinating read but not in any way compromising on the historicity of its facts.

What primarily makes the book important is the clever scholarship behind its execution. Collins and Lapierre present the public and private lives of Mountbatten, Edwina Mountbatten, Nehru, Gandhi or for that matter Gopal Godse, with effortless ease. They narrate the events in India and 10 Downing Street, almost simultaneously, by a mere mention of the ‘six thousand miles’ that lies between them. Be it Swami Madananand’s prediction about 15th August being “a day cursed by the stars,” or the account of Bill Rich when he stepped over a corpse to board the train, only to realize later how violence during partition hardened him to these otherwise frightening scenes, Freedom at Midnight essays the story of turbulent times in India when all seemed possible. Children turned murderers caught in the frenzy of communal fervor and in those very times 55 year-old Buta Singh found in an abused Muslim girl, Zenib, an object of his affection. Collins and Lapierre show the high politics of the day, be it in London, when Mountbatten, much against his will became the last Viceroy of India, or in India when Patel and Mountbatten began their tour of Independent States to assimilate them in the Indian nation. The authors also showcase the sexual savagery that ensued in the streets of Punjab and Lahore. Collins and Lapierre achieve another feat by displaying the myriad emotions of all their key characters, be it the anxiousness of Mountbatten during his drive through Lahore’s streets knowing full well that he could be attacked by RSSS men or Gandhi’s difficult decision to allow Manu to receive the medication that he denied his wife, Kasturba. Kasturba died and Manu survived. Collins and Lapierre juggle time, place, events, emotions and people and does it rather well.

Freedom at Midnight is an excellent rendition of an era gone by. It includes in its canvass; Gandhi who stood for the modest India and the Princes who stood for its opulence, the English language that united Indians and the religions that divided them, and, once more Gandhi who stood for united India, Jinnah who stood for a divided India and Nathuram Godse who wanted an India without a Gandhi. In this work, Collins and Lapierre, leave much for the readers to delightfully enjoy and then question concepts such as communalism, nationalism and imperialism. By putting a human face on these much debated concepts in history, Collins and Lapierre accomplish the engagement of readers with these ideas, an achievement many historians can only hope for.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Flashback


Because blogging is not reporting the news does not have to be fresh. This is an entrepreneurial activity and I am my own master. Having said that let me share some old but exciting news (with you ALL - how optimistic). Anyways.

1. I cleared my defense. I do not know if I came out with "flying colours" or not but I passed it alright. In fact, recalling the number of times I said " yeah, that I would like to research on more..." maybe it was after all not that "colourful." But yes, compensating the lack of colours there were high spirits. My advisor gifted me two books, an antique broach (some lady was honored with that broach by the British Government when she fought in the Second World War and she left it in her will to Dr Z, and because the British Empire brought me and Dr Z together I am the proud owner of that broach now) and a bottle of champagne. We had that champagne and then danced till 1 AM in our apartment much to the disapproval of our first floor occupants (naturally !!). One of them whom we jokingly call "Father of Oxford" called me on my cell and because it went unanswered physically came up to advice us to go to uptown and dance BECAUSE it was 1 AM. This was 3rd JULY.

2. On 24 th June (SUNDAY) a kind and dear soul, whom I happen to know for a long time now bought me my first (greedy me !!) Digital SLR camera. It is a Nikon D 80. Kaustique, a friend told me that it would change my life. It has. I am always reading the manual and really working hard on it. A few days back I was out in the sun, all day, photographing Oxford (two days before my defense). I was also carrying the tripod and so it was really a task. I kept cursing the tripod. Yesterday (4th July), in spite of the rain and the umbrella in one hand I was able to click some fine shots of the fireworks. Thanks to the tripod. On a narcissistic note, the fact that I always ask questions has always served me well. The tripod in question was checked out from the library and I had no idea that it could be done but I just called the library to find out and it was certainly do-able. I am so smart !!

3. On 23rd June , I did another fantastic thing. There is this shop called "You're Fired," in Oxford. They have articles there, all in ceramic and in white paint. You can buy them (priced anywhere between 4 to 15 dollars), paint them and then leave it in the shop, and in a couple of days those articles will be fired and glazed for you. There is a cover change of 8 dollars (including as many articles you can paint) and that includes the paints you use and also the firing. Just the idea made me leap with joy and I was even happier to see the place. It is done in bright colours and looks very encouraging. I must add that most of the articles on display are stuff that you can use. Me, D and P went there in the morning and stayed there till it closed at 7 PM. We took a 15 mins break in the middle to have our home made lunch. We enjoyed ourselves a lot, except that we heard "live like you were dying" at least 10 times. Mothers come with their children and it is nice to over hear their conversations : "Mommy, does the sun have to yellow ?" The blog picture was taken at the end of the day. These are all gifts for my relatives and friends in India. I hope they like it.

So in all, life has been fantastic last few weeks.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Challenging SCIENCE and TECHNOLOGY

The 'title' is just meant to attract attention. But yeah, it has some relation to my blog, so read on. I have been exercising for almost a month now, regularly. I run for 30 minutes and then I work out for 1 hour. While I was running a few days back I realized how tired I was getting. Eventually I feel good, but while starting out it appears to be a burden.

So one thought lead to another and suddenly it occurred to me that no scientific invention in the last 10 years has really taken me by surprise. I remember when Dushtumesho (uncle) withdrew money from an ATM in Delhi, some 9 years back, my jaws dropped but I recovered. After that there were mobile phones, digital cameras (soon became affordable), sharing photo websites, google talk....all these changed my life, added value to it but still I AM YET TO BE THOROUGHLY IMPRESSED.

Imagine, if there was a machine that would make you lose excess fat, just wherever you need it, while you are sleeping !!! How does it sound ? All you need to do is wear a band (or whatever), plug in the fantastic gadget and go to sleep. The gadget will have a small computer in it, so that you can point out how much fat you want to lose and where ? Maybe in six months the gadget will be upgraded and it will also tone your muscles as well.....

I am sure VLCC has nothing like this. All their products require that should stay awake. How blissful would life be, if I could eat how much ever I want and not worry about gaining weight or keeping in shape. Now weight is not like height. You stop growing taller after a point but you don't stop getting fatter necessarily. Odds in life and unexplained mysteries will always be there. What can I say ? :)