Monday, December 28, 2009

remembering a roadside salesman of delhi

salesman: "madam peticoat ka nada chahiye?"
me : "nahee"
salesman: "madam dekh to lijiye"
me : "nahee"
salesman: "madam A1 quality ka hai"
me : "arre bhaiyya nahee chahiye"

salesman: "mmmm... accha to phir pendrive chahiye???"

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Best Friends

When I was in school around 4th std, my father moved to another town. There in the new class everybody had a best friend. I did not. A girl walked to me and said I don't have a best friend. Lets be best friends. I was happy and exclaimed "Yes". In the next few years of school, we hardly spoke to each other. i don't even remember her name now.

I have my friend vaidehi whom I know since 10th. We have done so many activities together, bought similar looking bags and chappals and what not. She holds more secrets about me than this blog. When I went to US, she and kamra flew down to help me get settled and are the first ones to make me smoke and taste wine. Later, I moved back to India. Last year she had a baby. I hardly spoke to her. just scrapped on orkut/facebook.

She is visiting India and she called me. I knew it was her number coz she had scrapped that to me on facebook and I had it stored. I was watching Avatar movie then. It was the interval time. The conversation (after 3-4 years)
Vaidehi: Hi Arati kya kar rahee hai (Hi Arati Wassup)
I recognized the voice immediately. It brought a smile to my face.
Arati: Arre Vaidehi, mein picture mein hun abhi (I am in the movie)
Vaidehi: Achcha phir tu khatam kar phir baat kartein hai (Ok call me once its done)
Arati: Theek hai chal (Ok then)
Vaidehi: Bye

I felt a sense of compression of time. As if like back in college days when we spoke 3-4 times a day and then she had called for the 4th time. She was so fresh in my mind. Not lost, not forgotten. Somewhere we were still in touch.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Bhopal gas tragedy

Indi today mourns 25 years of bhopal gas tragedy - a pesticide plant shifted to India coz it was deemed too risky for american citizens. Total toll - 20,000 people killed (a painful death) around 5.67 lakhs still affected. The people behind it still free,the people affected by it still not compensated. Most of them homeless jobless in the absence of compensation and ability to work. They still drink the contaminated groundwater.

But I don't remember their plight everyday. I only remember the Top ten news of the day and this happens to be the headlines.

I will forget this tomorrow.

Popularity contest

Who are the most popular people. What are the most popular entities ? How do they become popular.
I am a huge believer of democracy - the majority opinion - the popular opinion- still am - it is self-corrective - though slow but steady - because anything radical would mean dictatorship. i was reading a sufi book - the sufi parables are quite like zen buddhist philosophies - which I have quite enjoyed as the eastern philosophies goes beyond thought rather than restricting itself to it.
The book revolts against popular opinion by citing the following parable:
A man died and a coffin was created. He was laid and he woke up. Seeing the entire procession he fainted again. He was proclaimed dead and taken for burial. He woke up again and said "I am alive - let me go". A man said - "But the doctor said that you are dead". He said "No I am alive". The other man asked everybody at the burial "Do you think he is dead or alive?". Everybody said "He is dead". "So you are dead". And they buried the man.

Along with this story, it provides another story - in other end of the book but it is interesting how the solution to above problem is cited in the other story.

A man landed in "The land of Fools". He saw that everyone was scared of a water melon and thought it to be a monster. He went near the melon and everybody said that - "he is daring". He went and smashed it and started eating it. Everybody said - "he is a monster too and they killed him".
Another man landed in the same world. He saw everybody was scared of the water melon. He knew it was just a melon. But he pretended to be scared of it. He tip toed near the melon like every body. He led them, himself acting scared near the melon and then he managed to touch it and made everyone touch it. He then managed to cut and everybody ate the melon too. He was made the king of the land.

I think it is quite an insightful story as to how things operate in our group.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The things that make Saurabh

PS - This is probably one of my highly personal post and is time sensitive - it will take me 3-4 days to realize that it is too personal to be in public and I might then make it private.

So now that I am married for 2 years, I have discovered properties of Saurabh that I didn't know existed. Here is a list:

1) Making 4 cups of tea every morning and drinking only half a cup.

2) Buying a container of curd and eating it all away alone and then claiming "Oh my God! We finish off one dubba of curd everyday".

3) Invariably, atleast once a week finding a unique place of losing his specs/wallet/discharged phone/ ipod and frantically searching for it and in the process opening every drawer of the house. Finally almost sherlock homes type theorizing where it could be found - "Last I saw the phone was when i was having dinner then I went to bed, but it is neither on the bed nor on the side table which means that it has fallen behind the immovable side table." And lo and behold - that's where it is found.

4) On weekends after lunch, he claims "You feed me rice! I will goto gym now". He dresses up for gym and while I sit in one room assuming that he has left for gym after 30 minutes, I find him lying on the guest bedroom reading a book and then he looks at me with question mark on his face.

5) He is still shy of beautiful girls. Prefers to walk down 14th floors rather than share a lift with a beautiful lady alone.

6) "Come pick me from office. I am waiting." You rush to his office and he never comes out of his office atleast for 30 minutes. But in the morning when he has to leave at 7:30. He rushes out at 7:25.

7)"I will arrange my cupboard. Don't let the maid touch it. Don't let the maid touch it. Don't let the maid touch it" - he says. Not knowing that after Priya had arranged it once, I secretly arrange his casuals every week and he believes his clean cupboard is totally his doing.

8) Gets up at 6 am even on Sundays (to make his tea and sit on his computer). Whenever I check the computer (apart from stratfor) the youtube video with movie "99"-part 6 is open. Neither gmail nor facebook is open.

9) There is a sexy band playing outside the house and food festival that we can see from the bedroom window (bandrafest). Saurabh still prefers to sit at home read his book watch one of the three movies: 99 or departed or hangover.

10) Even if it is not a non-stick, his omelettes don't break.

11) Regardless of number of guests in the house, at 10 pm he manages to sneak into one of the beds and fall asleep. He has been found asleep with a book, on the laptop and on the sofa.

12) On seeing this list he would say "kya bakwaas hai".

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cognitive Science, genetic engineering, iWife and 2012

Recently was discussing with my brother - what is the next big thing in the world of technology and we felt it was cognitive science. Earlier it was Internet and Computer Science - a wave that our parent's generations witnessed, next someone speculated genetic engineering - the progress there is slow and steady and once we make one big breakthrough then there will be no looking back. It can be used to solve lots of diseases and will revolutionize medical sciences, change our life spans. Also as my uncle says - we might start having genetically engineered children - which will initially face lots of moral opposition but over generations would gain acceptance much like (and much faster than) we started accepting gays.

The other big area where we see lots of work happening is cognitive science (cognition means "to know", common used form is recognition) where millions of dollars are being spend on making machine intelligent like humans. A very interesting quote I read somewhere that "An average general intelligence is much difficult to program than programming chess expert". It referred to the computer program that defeated the Chess champion Gary Kaspurov and having dabbled in machine learning myself, I can vouch for that statement. When I was in IIT doing my masters, in the second semester, majority of my courses were around machine learning - 3 out of 4 in the second semester- we had knowledge discovery and machine learning and computation brain. The small projects we did - like programming neural nets and genetic algorithms were very alluring and lots of fun. I still remember my favorite code being "Game of Kalah" that I did way back in my engg. days for a software competition where the computer could play smarter than me even though I wrote that code, the computer could beat me, the creator of the code.

I think in the area of cognitive science we have whetted our appetite enough and there are lots of people very very keen to know how much artificial intelligence will evolve in our lifetime. This is again something that will revolutionize our lives.

My short fiction( had a concept of iWife - customized wife coming from this fascination. And a number of people asked me - shouldn't there be iHusbands too :).

So on one hand we will have genetic engineering which will have customized human beings and on other hand we will have development in cognitive sciences where machines will be more free-spirited and human like.

It will be interesting to see who will end where. I hope we survive 2012 to witness this ;).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bonus of the day

Saurabh can cook. He made bhurji for me (with garlic???) but it came out well.

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."- Anais Nin( courtesy Sumit's status message)

I was advised bed rest but I still went to college. Going to college was a bad decision considering the amount of fever I have gotten upon myself. But I read about dengue and it talks about phase 2 where one gets fever after a day of feeling normal. So maybe it is my phase 2 and it just co-incided with my going to college.

Monday, November 16, 2009

"war and peace" by Leo Tolstoy

best part of dengue fever is being able to read this classic with minimum intervention from the outside world...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mahatma Gandhi's contribution to India's freedom struggle

A movie was released in Bollywood called Bhagat Singh which was largely anti-Gandhi Many of my friends who saw it said they have no reverence left for Gandhi as he didn't really do anything for freedom struggle.

I recently read two books - one on Essays on History of India by Bhishm and After Tamerlane by John Darwin (both considerably fat history books), and I started understanding and appreciating Gandhi's genius and strategy.

Before we talk about that we need to talk about why Britishers came to India. They/ East India company came basically for trade - spices, salt (there were no fridges then and they used this for preserving meat) and most ofcourse cotton (we and china used to clothe most of the world). Earlier they just wanted to trade with India and it was lucrative enough for them. It so happened that during the revolt of 1857 (which lots of people don't know that 200 british woman and children were killed) after which the Britishers became aggressive in colonizing India. Also britishers wanted to capture China and they had competition from both japan and russia, so India seemed a good base to keep an eye on china. Colonizing India was a huge resource drain on them as they had to bring large troops to India (Swiss canal being under Sweden meant that they had to go all around Africa to come to India). Also India was under several rulers Mughals, Marathas, the Bengal guy. One needed to have force everywhere to control India. So they started building the railways to mobilize the forces and the british army.
Congress that came in earlier didn't really want freedom as that seemed far fetched. They instead wanted an arrangement - something like Canada. Where Britishers rule but the congress governs locally. The congress that time consisted of elite north indian scholars who were mostly hindu. Muslims were not part of them. Gandhi wrote on Hinduism and muslims and his theories had won the hearts of both muslims and hindus especially harijans. At the same time Ottoman empire crashed and lots of muslims in India didn't have a leader to look up to (the muslims were united under the turkey's ruler for a long time - he was their spiritual leader - quite like the Pope). So they started seeing Gandhi as their well-wisher. (A guess of Gandhi that worked and made him extremely valuable to congress).
Well now Gandhiji rejected the idea of British columbia-like setting for India. He wanted full freedom. At the same time spinning wheel was invented in the west and it could produce cloth 200 times faster than the indian craftsmen and britishers didn't want cotton from India anymore. So to even out the expenses of having India as colony they started levying huge taxes (remember Lagaan movie). They also started exerting cultural supremacy where there was stress on Indians wearing the clothes made in their factories.
Gandhiji felt that it is difficult to beat them by force but very easy to beat them by making India non-lucrative for them. So he started his non-cooperation movement. He resisted the concept of India and withheld Panchayati raaj, he encouraged charkha to protect the local industry and created ressitance against the foreign clothes that britishers wanted to sell to india. He held the dandi march for salt.
At the same time WW-II happened and US in exchange for help asked britisher for all colonies in asia. Britishers gave every colony except india. One of the biggest fears of nehru around that time was that India shouldn't goto America because though america will not colonize it (Roosevolt had taken a moral stand that we will not colonize any country but will control it - a stand that US takes even today), America will take control over trading in India - something that would affect India economically. Anyways, Britishers having lost heavily during war and now, because Gandhiji involved the mass (the other thing that Gandhi was right in formulating was that the masses will bring about the changes and not a handful of people and involved masses using non-violence) and there was non-co-operation to large extent that it became increasingly expensive to sustain india as a colony. Hence britishers left India (ofcourse after a very unfortunate partition whose story i will tell later). So when folks say that without gandhiji we would have gotten freedom. The answer is yes - in 1990s but not so early in 1947. We owe him atleast 50 years of fresh air!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Some words of wisdom from my brother

He is a PhD student at Wisconsin. I loved the third statement for its sheer profoundness.

1) If you've never missed the bus, you are wasting too much time at the bus stop.

2) If you've never missed a paper deadline, then you are doing too much evaluation.

3) If you've never regretted what you said, you are not speaking what you wanna say enough.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Money is abstract

Amongst various this, Diwali is day of Goddess of Laxmi. The day really celebrated in India. "It is Indian Christmas" - I would tell in US to my friends. And on explaining the significance of the day one of the friends had pointed out that very few of the religions give money that much importance do celebrate it's presence. Most other religions try to stay spiritual and never try to be material.

And I remembered Borges. Borges in one of his stories mentions that there can be nothing less material than money. Money is one of the most abstract entities. Since any money represents multiple future possibilities. Money is future time. Money can be multiple things - it can be a quiet long drive, it can be going underwater in hawaii, showing USA to parents, eating in favorite sushi, it can be watching leonard cohen's concert live, it can be a warm bed on a cold rainy night, it can be higher education for somebody's son abroad, it can be somebody's treatment for cancer or a promise of 24 hours water supply. It can be just a warm cup of chai.

There is lot of disdain for money, mostly made publicly to show off ones virtue. "money can't buy everything". Agreed. But it does buy a lot of things. Lot of things we take for granted but would be highly disoriented in their absence.

Friday, October 09, 2009

God and me - Temporary Fundas

I call it temporary because my attempts of rationalizing this infinite and irrational phenomenon of believing in God never cease and though in the process I never discover anything about God I discover something about me.
So why do we pray? Why do I pray? As a kid I used to pray before my exams before the results ? Sometimes before leaving for a journey my mother would pray to God. Also it has been that in relationship issues we pray to God (it may sound cheesy and TV serial like but it is true). And there are few who pray to God for the sheer pleasure in the process - they feel more aligned to the world around them.
So what does God - an abstract entity - represent ? And my theory for today is that it represents the Universe. My initial thoughts were that it represented the set (Universe - I) but now I think it is the entire universe. And most often than not we pray to make sure that the universe is aligned to work in favour of I.

Why do I say so?
If infinite powers were vested on me by some random accident, I would want to have certain things in my favour. I could orchestrate the world in such a way that the flood in Assam didn't happen or that I came first in my tenth exams or that Matt Daemon(he he you didn't know) came searching for me with some cindrella shoes. Or also that my parents lived for ever without any illness and also my tooth stopped aching (which as a matter of fact currently is). Same are the things that I pray for. And there is a faith that my prayers will be answered and that the Universe would listen to me.
As I was thinking about it, I thought what should I as a finite mortal with finite capabilities do so as to do away with the concept of God. And then I realized that necessarily there might be things that are not in my control but there are things that are in my control by virtue of my ability to work and then I realized that the only way I can assist/replace my need for God is by doing my work hard. I can work hard to come first in my 10th exams and may be talk about global warming to reduce the chances of floods (I guess I myself cannot help myself in Matt Daemon case but maybe in one of the traffic jams I can sit and dream about it and fulfill that dream mentally). And then suddenly I feel that work is far superior way to orchestrate the world in my favor then just praying to the abstract God. So well one way or the other you cannot control the entire universe but when you work you feel more deserving to be controlling it rather than otherwise. And I wonder if the priests and religious heads or people who renounce everything to attain God ever romanticized with the idea of achieving God by virtue of their work?

Friday, October 02, 2009

2 in one laptop

Earlier I and Saubhy had two laptops in our home. And most of the times I would find each of us absorbed in our own laptops. And in protest I made saubhy give away his Mac to his sister (I had a thinkpad which I - from my CS bg - feel is way more robust than a whiny Macbook). So now between two of us there is one laptop - and our interest neatly co-exists in one - my final draft is always open and his MS excel and ft-alphaville is always open. We are careful never to close the other person's application.
Yest after lots of deliberation, I started writing my diploma script. However today when I got back to it, the final draft was open but the script was erased (I had only written two lines but then I have a point to fight so its okay) and instead of the script lines I found this written:

"BPTP project parklands
This is good man"

My territory is tresspassed - grrrrrr!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The 148th Street

Everybody has there childhood lane where they remember playing hide and seek, going to grocery holding their mom's hands, there is the atta chakki and there is the vegetable vendor who would be expensive as compared to the veggie market but then good enough for emergencies.

The street I am gonna talk about is the memory of my youth. I don't want to sound cynical but I know I will never be able to have friends of the kind I had in Seattle. Friends who cared for me like my family. Friends whom i care for even today like my family. Part of my formative years- part of my life when i was financially independent and single. The friends who gave me my bachelorette party and to whom I gave theirs.
3 years i lived in Adagio apartments in Seattle. After looking 4-5 apartments, I had instantly loved this one - for having a walk-in closet and most importantly a french window in the dining room and wall made up of glass to let the sunlight in during the morning in the living room. I loved my apartment. It was 5 mins drive and 25 mins walk from my work place. That the weather didnt permit me to walk was another story. Little did I know that the best feature of the apartment I was gonna discover later. It was on 148th street. a street studded with apartment homes - The lakes (which had a nalla and extremely noisy swans and they called it lakes) and Hampton Green (a total disappointment if you have seen the New York's Hampton's neighbourhood) and one more (I can't believe I forgot the name). It so happened that all the folks I eventually befriended (the gang) ended up living in one of these apartments - 2 mins drive or 15 mins walk. And hence started the beautiful country lifestyle of ours - the proclub (our gym which btw is also the biggest gym of US) was in that lane too. End of the road had both Safeway and Fred meyers for grocery. 15 mins away was Mayuri - Indian video and snack shop whom we would hate for poor quality but would go nonetheless. And that's how all of us started living - like a small desi community (relishing sambhars and pakodas) within a community of Americans. Life was simple - going for long walks - arbitrarily dropping at someone's place for tea (without calling or taking appointments), raiding houses for dinner. I even remember getting up one Sun morning and going to Dami's place for morning tea and coming back in the eve at 4 pm to get ready - all the while lying on his huge sofa watching TV (I didn't have cable connection). We were actually one big family with the best set up - we had our lives and privacy but we had eachother too.
Now all of us have moved away - people in Seattle have either bought or will buy big houses in other suburbs - some of us have moved out. i wonder if anyone of us still stays on that street.

What remains for me on that 148th street is the ghost - ghost of our 3 years! And I miss it. Miss it badly.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Reflections - the movie

Hey Friends,
Check out the details of my movie - trailer pics and teaser blog entries by the lead characters...


Friday, September 11, 2009

About life and geysers

There are things that a married woman has to deal with when she is living with a guy. One was that my husband saurabh would not turn off the hot water geyser on so many occasions after taking his bath. And on top of that he would harp about the soaring electricity bills. I got into this habit of checking the geyser switch everyday and on more occasions than one it would be on.
I always told him - "you didn't switch it off" and he would refuse to admit.
This last week he has been away to London and I have been home alone. Actually not exactly as I was busy with my edits and was leaving home at 8:30 am coming back home by 11 pm everyday. Whenever I come back home, first thing I do is wash my face. The water there is supposed to be cold. It is hot only if the geyser has been kept on for a long time.

Well all these five days, whenever i washed my face, I consistently found the water to be hot.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The animal

Sometimes I feel man and his higher forms are over-rated. There is this aspirational value attached to feelings of contentment, self-restraint, loyalty, patriotism in various cultures. Over the years, I have started appreciating other emotions of humans too greed, jealousy, temptation, selfishness. The latter emotions that come naturally to us by virtue of our evolutionary characteristics - need to be the fittest for survival. The former are conditioned. We are conditioned to believe that the former is good. It is believed that they make us more humane than an animal. And I wonder, what's wrong in being a little bit animal sometimes ?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Short fiction saga

Shot my short fiction today and this post is to bookmark the great feeling I am having. As if I have got what I wanted in life, as if I am ready to die. And the funny part is that i haven't yet seen the movie. And I know there would be mistakes (esp. because one scene i compromised because of the lack of time and combined the shots) and I fear there might be something that i might not like - the pacing, the rhythm. But for today I free myself from all the worries of the results and allow myself to derive the pleasure of indulging into a beautiful process of creation. It's the satisfaction of a painter, of a poet, of a writer, of a sculptor of a composer - all combined. It's not just satisfaction - it's a high. I wonder if people who have drugs feel this way.

It's 1 at night - I am alone in our guest bedroom - it's just me and the process of creation with me. And it feels great - it feels wonderful. I wonder if every moment of my life would be aimed at experiencing these brief moments, these wonderful nights. I wish they would be ...

Thursday, July 16, 2009


A perennial question that people ask me is "why did you leave a lucrative job and came to this movie industry where you might struggle to the end of the life and even not be able to get half of what I used to get earlier..and why so late"

Well here is my absolute honest answer:
For a long time growing, I believed people worked to earn. Blame it my middle class upbringing, or blame it on the fact that I was not born with the right foresight or blame it the fact that my father worked in a factory, managing huge machines and I felt that was the work he did for us to have money to eat and study. So I worked hard for a single purpose goal, maximize the earning I have. But then when I started working to maximize the money, thank God for Microsoft, I realized that I spend most of my day with my work than with the money. It occupies 8-10 hours of my day physically and much more mentally and probably will occupy most of my life. My relationship with my work define my relationship with myself. So then the better thing to do is choose the work I want to do and derive happiness accordingly. And my love for the idea of "creation" made me take this decision. Also film-making was a hobby that was going out of control. It forced me to take this decision. A decision lots of people thought I took in haste but I took it coz I didnt want to waste anymore hours of our life.
Again here, after making the shift, after making only 3-4 short films I am still struggling to learn the craft. And people wonder even more. Why? why? But I struggle because I choose the toughest things for myself.. Subjects that make me nervous, because I want to give myself opportunity to learn. Film school is not an opportunity to perform. Infact life is a great opportunity to learn.
The problem I see, so much prevalent in this world is that people try to follow standards set by others. The insecurity of failure has become the biggest motivation. The struggle is not to give what you think is the best but what you think everybody thinks would be the best.For some the difference is subtle, for some it is so hazy that they don't see it and work hard in this confusion shunting from one end to other, coming out with stories so desperate that they cannot feel it from the heart - feel the story, laugh and cry with it, get frustrated by it, get angry at it. Every movie is a woman, it has a life, it breathes. The movie should be made for that woman first. If you make her real and alluring, audience will seek her. She need not seek the audience. We are talking about real movies here and not the cacaphonies that people churn up because these people are lost, they work for the money's sake and not for the sake of their life.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

writer's block

I am so much struggling with the second half of my short fiction script... this post is dedicated to all those script writers who have a good concept and great exposition but no resolution. Horror script writers should particularly agree.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

what matters in the end ...

A white light where the colors meet.

An ocean where all the drops merge.

A graveyard where the earth mixes everybody. Or the fire in the pyre that burns us all.

At the end of it all, when the earth will be swallowed by darkness, when the sky will vanish, when the rivers will dry, between you and me who would stay ?

Friday, June 12, 2009

In search of a cake

This is one of those days which could end up being my diploma script.
Well tomorrow is June the 13th (no I am not making any horror movie on it). It is an interesting day as my father and husband share the same birthday. Well since I was too busy (and absent-minded) with my short fiction script, I completely forgot about it till I came back from college after 2 auto-reckshaw breakdown enroute.
Well then it hit me that I should be buying a cake for his birthday. Well Bandra is famous for cakes - what with Mount Mary and all. So I started on foot looking for a cake. And every shop I would goto would have a slice but not a full cake. The worst was the top two shops from which I buy were closed. I went all along hill road, looked everywhere and couldn't find one shop that sells cake. I had given up and decided to buy mangoes. "Cut mangoes on your birthday"- I thought I could tell him that. Just then I realized that there is 'Salt waters' on cooper road - opp. side of where I was (near Lilavati).
Well then I walked all the way back and reached there. That place was full of pastries. My hopes went high. I went and asked one of the 10 guys standing at the counter
"Cake hai"
"Madam kaunsa flavour chahiye"
"Counter mein dekhiye"
I saw and chose some "Chocolate Kahlua cake" as Kahlua is also my fav drink. Well then he started taking out the piece (which incidentally is 136 rupees per piece).
Then I said
"Bhaiyya cake"
"yes madam" and continued with packing it.
"BHaiyya yeh cake nahee hai" - I said
He went and spoke to another guy with a long hat. He walked to me and said"
"Madam actually this is cake. It has all the ingredients of cake - see the cut side"
Alright - these buggers were thinking that I have never eaten a pastry or a cake from a sophi shop. What do they know about me eating at DilliDaunte's (in downtown Seattle)? Well I said to them:
"I know this is a cake. But I need a full cake not a slice of it"
"Ooooh achcha madam"
The realization then dawned on them.

Well they incidentally didn't have a full cake. I ended up taking too pieces. Other with a different flavor (IRISH coffee). When I was back, I saw saurabh at house with half eaten dinner and a confused typical-saurabh "where were you?" look. Well I quietly sneaked in the pieces - and they are in fridge right now. Saurabh is sitting next to me worrying about India-China tension and I am here writing the blog wondering if he would notice tonight that I have gotten two cake slices instead an entire piece of cake.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Movie Review - Breathless

Jean Luc Godard's Breathless is the movie dedicated to B grade gangster movies and though it derives its main plot from the movies of film noir genre ("All you need to make a gangster movie is a girl and a gun"), he treats it with an extremely individualistic style were the plot of the movie seems incidental and the characters themselves become the central focus of the movie.

To truly enjoy Breathless, someone has to coax you to watch it for the second time. In the first watch, the essence of the movie is lost as most of us try to fit it within the conventional format of a film that we have been trained to watch. Breathless defies it, and once we watch the movie with full earnestness we start tuning ourselves into the intricacies that the filmmaker has woven into it.

Departure from the convention:
Generally in a screenplay, the points that take the story forward, the key plot points are stressed upon. In Breathless, that is not the case. The moments, that are of relevance to the emotions of the character (but not necessarily relevant to the plot) are prolonged.

Godard leaves a lot for the viewer to synthesize. It is not just in his editing style of jump cuts where he chooses to not show unnecessary travel or bullet hitting Michel but it also includes things like the back story of the character. The story begins in the middle of Michel stealing a car. No explanation for his behaviour is given. It is as if we tuned into his life all of a sudden and we would be doomed to be there with him in all the moments that interest the protagonist (Michel) and not necessarily us.

Godard also doesn't care if we realize that we are watching a movie and defies the rules that are established for continuity and creating an "illusion of reality" on screen. This is clear in his editing and shot taking style which is jarring, his use handheld that sometimes attract attention because of it being unsteady, or even while doing crowd control where there are shots where the crowd is clearly looking into the camera. All this make us aware that we are watching a movie.
He makes his character talk to the camera, uses mismatched eye lines to break conventions of continuity and dissolves car reversing and going forward to tell his story.
Now almost paradoxically, the movie is shot as close to real life as possible with the choice of real locations, spontaneous, non-pointed conversations and realistic character sketches and the earlier mentioned stylistics actually complement the temperament of the movie.

Key Characteristics:

The characters of the movie are rootless (we really do not get to know much about their parental upbringing) and are difficult to fathom. By keeping them sketchy and without clear motivations Godard manages to keep them unpredictable. We fail to judge whether they are good or bad. The actors themselves are devoid of any moral tone.

Michel as a character: Michel is a character whom you cannot completely hate or love. Michel is young, adventurous, frustrated, has likable traits but indulges in some extremely anti-social activities. He has boyish charm, plays with soft toys of his girlfriends but steals money from them. He shows symptoms of youth gone wrong which makes one sympathize with him. At the same time, he is guiltless of stealing and killing and it prevents the audience from falling in love with him. He is confused about his notion of good and bad, notion of love and notion of self-preservation. All along he is alone in his journey.

Patricia as a character:
Patricia again is a victim of herself and her own confusions - another example of youth caught between the mismatch of real and fairytale(Romeo and Juliet) world. She seems opportunist but also seem opportunist not out of choice but out of dictates of the world. She refuses to be with Michel but then sleeps with him. Roams around with him but turns him in and also comes and tells him about it. There is a certain vanity in her and self-consciousness of her beauty which she wants to maximize by wearing Dior dresses before going to take an interview. But then that sense of vanity is haunted with insecurities and fear of it being temporary (she checks her tummy becoming fat, talks about old age).
Infact Michel and Patricia are quite alike in the sense that they share the same sense of solitude, insecurity, indecisiveness and struggle for survival.

The dialogues of the movie are disconnected and generally do not take the story forward. They mimic the conversations of real life as close as possible. Godard allows conversation between people to flow beautifully without reducing them to pointed dialogues. The confusion of the characters is illustrated by the dialogues, sometimes mumbled and irrelevant, sometimes profoundly insightful (between Grief and nothingness I choose nothing"). Thinkers of Godard's time find their presence in the form of dialogues, posters and paintings.

Overall style:
Editing and shot taking:
Godard chose a form of editing that conveyed the turmoil of the character. The stylistics of the movie was consistent with the behaviour of the character. The jump cuts actually acted as a total disregard for the cinematic techniques of space-time continuum. Godard used jump cuts but most of the times retained continuity of audio across those cuts.

Godard also introduced lots of quick cuts and cuts with various magnification (ECS of gun, LS of policeman being killed). He also showed disregard for scene directionality propelling viewers to look to and fro on the screen thereby adding to the sense of nervousness of the characters themselves (e.g. quick cuts when Patricia is turning in Michel).

Godard in Breathless laid the foundation of quick cuts, angle and magnification shifts used so much by the MTV for song picturisation.

The cinematography of the movie is brilliant - right from the first car driving scene where there is an array of symmetrically arranged trees lined on both sides of the road to the death scene of Michel.
The mise-en-scene during the death scene when the policeman shoots and Michel is shown running (Godard cleverly skips the shot of the bullet actually hitting Michel) is one of the best as it is both film noirish (with Michel running and puffing his cigarette) and also carries a flavor of unrequited love(with Michel repeating some of the gestures he shares with Patricia). The scene is set in a foggy morning and Michel falls just before he hits the busy road where the city life is going on unmindful of his trauma.

The beauty of the movie is also in lots of beautiful well choreographed long takes.
There are multiple long takes - for example the single take in bank which is however handheld and jittery. It seems to reflect the feelings of Michel.
Another brilliant long take is at the end when Patricia confesses that she has turned Michel in. She goes round the room in anti-clockwise giving her point of view. In the same shot when Michel refutes her point of view, he goes round the room in clockwise direction. It illustrates two opposite point of views existing in the same space.

The movie is replete with certain interesting, unconventional choice of shots too for example shots of them in car when Michel is talking about Patricia , the camera stays only on Patricia across jump cuts though Michel is saying most of the dialogues. There is a similar shots with the taxi driver where the driver is shown during most of the conversations happening between Michel and Patricia. When Michel steps out of the taxi, the shot is taken from the taxi and is retained when Michel walks away and comes back in.

Godard returns to film noir style when he shows the detective and the informant (played by Godard). They are almost spoofish by the way they peep out of the paper and follow Patricia.

Character on motion:
Michel is almost always on the move. Right from the first car stealing scene till the end when he is shot he is running. Except one long scene which happens in Patricia's room, lots of time is spent in showing the characters going from one place to another or walking to and fro. The sense of motion, common also in Truffaut's movies imparts a certain fluidity to the movie. Also it keeps the audience constantly engaged and the sense of movement adds to the sense of being on the run, both physically and mentally.

The bedroom sequence:
The point in time when the cop is shot (the first plot point) happens in a split second while this bedroom sequence which has no resultant effect on the main plot is prolonged to form one-third of the movie.
And because of its length and treatment, this sequence imparts critical mass to the movie. The sequence with jump cuts, pans, tilts, love making inside the white bedsheet, honest conversations between Patricia and Michel act as central scene giving an illusion of a love story happening in realtime in single location without any interference from outside. This is the only time when the characters are not fidgety or on the run and this relationship provides a certain anchor to the characters (the same way the scene provides anchor to the entire movie).

Breathless is a classic example of the stylistics being congruent to the mood of the characters.

Production Design:
Most of the movie is shot on the streets of Paris. Even if the movie is indoors, the city seems to be coming in through the windows either visually or through sound. There are some beautiful shots of an array of street lamps being turned on at night and some interesting shots of the billboards displaying "Police starts closing in on Michel" where the city participates in storytelling.
The movie also moves from daytime Paris to night time Paris towards the end when the police starts closing in on Michel.

The another key Production design element is the various beautiful cars that Michel steals from the street. He talks about his grandfather owning a Rolls Royce and steals the best cars from the street and not settles for any car mediocre or lowkey. His choice of cars makes him look like a flamboyant thief - which is true to his character.

The key thing about the production design is that it brings across the cultural context within which the film is based.The movie is replete with citations of artists and posters("To Live Dangerously Until the End" ) of film noir on one hand and various elite thinkers of his generation on the other hand. At various places Godard has given tribute to artists who courageously departed from the norm.

Casting and Acting:
The part of Michel who is essentially existential in his way of living was played by Jean-Paul Belmondo. He plays the part of a young good looking guy- who is enchanted by Bogart, repeats his gestures, is flamboyant, honest to himself in his conversations and indulges in self-mockery with brilliance. Belmondo shows good restraint and prevents the character from being a caricature.
Jean Seberg looked beautiful and played the part of a pensive girl, confused and torn with insecurities beautifully. Her constumes and her hairstyle gives her a child like look that makes her character interesting. We don't like the fact that she turned Michel in - but we do not hate her. We actually feel a mixture of pity, hatred and remorse. Jean Seberg manages to pull that off well.

Music and leitmotifs:
There is a theme music attached to Patricia which plays when Patricia is introduced and also at various places. He mixes it with the use of jazz music of crime thrillers liberally across the movie. He also uses Mozart (which Michel believes is the last composition o Mozart before he died and plays before he himself dies).

Gestures as leitmotif
Godard uses two facial gestures of Michel across the movie. Those gestures made by Patricia and Michel in their long bedroom scene when repeated at the end, imparts a certain charm of unrequited love to the characters. They serve as a good recall of the erratic yet honest moments they shared.

Personal Note/Trivia:
One of the first movies that made me notice the poetic beauty of a film was Before Sunset. Before joining a film course I made a 20 minute movie clearly on the same lines ("The Last Stop" - available at Watching the long walk sequences of Breathless made me realise that I found the idea of shooting conversations between two people (present in Before Sunset)- some relevant and mostly irrelevant the most appealing and most alluring as I feel that relationships dwell in this seemingly irrelevant conversations. Little did I know that I was influenced by Breathless before even watching it!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The lock and key story

In all the places we have lived in Mumbai, the door is designed in such a way that it does not need a key to lock it(it locks automatially on shutting) but needs a key to unlock it from outside. Such a mechanism is doomed to lead to the circumstance of key being left inside the house and I and saurabh have experienced this on numerous occasions.
And I have always wondered, why is a lock with in built key not a popular thing in the human civilisation.

Infact, why we still use the same lock and key that probably Tipu Sultan used? I know that the technology has really evolved to swipe cards, to fingerprint scanners to retina scanner, password based locks but common man still believes in good old lock and key. Though these days the lock is in built to the door - the traditional model still stays. And even though it is cumbersome to carry key everywhere, I wonder why is the dependence on an external key still popular.
And well the first advantage of a simple method of having a lock and key is that, the key is not a function of the owner of the house. Unlike in fingerprint and retina scan, where the previously authenticated person has to himself be present, in this method, they need not be present everytime to open it. Passing on the key to someone else is a situation we encounter a lot in our day to day life hence I think this is where most of the time simplicity works.
So one design guideline must follow while designing a new lock and key device is that: Key should be transferrable.
Now then we can use a password alright. But what if we have to give a key only once. I mean, I can give the password to my friend (who is medium trust worthy) but now the danger will lurk that he might get in anytime as he has the key. So if we use password, we give away the password permanently (unless we change it and that is a tedious mental process). So a key should not just be transferrable, but transferrable temporarily which means, that there has to be expiry on it.
Apart from that a simple thing with lock and key is that if we lose the key, we can create another key. We need not break the lock. Example if I had a fingerprint scanner and I lose all my fingers to a traditional indian bandit called angulimal, then will i have to break the lock to get it reset? And the lock is expensive right?
Which brings us to two points: The lock and key should be cheap and the loss of key should minimize lock destruction.
Any more reasons?

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Credit Crisis

Lots of people have lots of speculations about recession - how it started etc. It actually started because of real estate sector going kaput (where my hubby works) but started in US. No words of mine can describe it better than this good animation (thanks Paramesh for sharing).

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Prostitutes and People

Remember Peela house in Slumdog Millionaire where Ringa song is picturised. As part of our field trip, we were taken to chor bazaar, elephanta cave and peela house (its actually a street with 2-3 floor dingy houses without any doors- only curtains). It is one of the many lanes in mumbai which is called "red-light area" or the place where you can pick up prostitutes.
We reached there at around 7:30 pm - the business begins at around that time. We were not allowed to click pics on the street. Initially when we entered the street, it just looked like normal street with various shop. What stood out were chain of theatres, each of different color and each showing really old movies like tridev. There was a suspicious looking video game parlour too. But then when we moved in we saw girls - ostentatiously dressed, with the brightest of lipsticks - standing as if they were waiting.
As we moved inward into the street, their numbers increased - and so did their variety. There were extremely young ones in their teens to middle aged women. Some smiling, some terse in their expressions. Some wore indian dresses like salwar suits. Some wore western. Some wore two piece (Indian or western) showing off their bellies. And some dressed in a proper saree, in 40s looking somber, without any makeup - one of those ladies you might find buying vegetables in a market - and unless you saw them standing in a waiting pose, you wouldn't have recognized that they were one of them.
One of my classmates was literally grabbed by one of them and the poor boy was so scared that in rest of the walk he was grabbing one of us for protection. One of us was not of Indian nation and he was attracting special glares from everyone (maybe he seemed loaded). The market in this lane was catering to lower middle class and hence the prices were really low - around 800 rupees (16$).
Most of the class guys were making fun of them, when they came back. Some said well maybe the circumstances that got them into this might be different but now they are doing it with their own choice so why be sympathetic.
One of my classmates asked how I felt when I looked at them. When I was walking past them, I was seeing them at the distance, totally avoiding looking at them - just whatever I could capture from the corner of my eyes. I was feeling ashamed that in that street I was going for no reason but was being like a "tourist". I didn't know what they would be thinking looking at me? Do they compare notes with women like me who were circumstantially not forced to resort to something that would put them on a street every night - displaying their best - hoping to get a customer - enough money to go on till the next night. Regardless of whether they enjoyed or hated their profession, what was transpiring in their head at that time?

I remember getting real scared before my MSFT interview, or before screening of my foundation film in front of my faculty. I found it extremely difficult to be judged. I always hate it. I hate my "working with actors" acting classes because the aim of the class is to make directors realize how difficult it is to act- or difficult it is to be judged for your personality. I remember giving presentations of my work and not being able to eat because I was so scared before it. But once I had to give it everyday, I had some confidence. I knew my strong points, my weak points. But just before a presentation, a few minutes before, with a room full of people, me watching them - about to begin, were the thoughts in my head same as theirs.

In a steady state, how different is their job from mine except that the society has trained us to moralistically disagree with them? Maybe because people enter the Peela house only when the discipline of the society ceases to work for them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Yellow Butterfly

The sun was taking a dip
Into the ocean,
Behind the mountains.
A young ray of light,
leaped above,
And fell on the meadows
A sleepy butterfly saw it.
And became yellow.

Monday, March 09, 2009

From past to present - reasons for divorce rate to increase in India

I and Saurabh were discussing about the factors behind increasing divorce rates - influence of "western" culture",women's liberalisation, break up of joint family when Saurabh came up with this insightful point of view.
Earlier we had an agriculture based society. From there came the concept of settling down. More the number of children, more number of hands to work. Hence an average family had 6-7 children. Assuming that a woman needs to devote atleast 2-3 years of her life right from pregnancy to post-childbirth caring for the kid it would mean 12-14 years of her life. Assuming the average life to be around sixty, 45-50% of her post puberty life would be 100% dedicated in rearing children. That means a woman's role in the society was to have kids and take care of them and hence they were home bound. She needed the man to take care of her financially so apart from love, she had strong economic dependence on her spouse. Also, in tradition hindu society, the kids stick to mother (see from mahabharata - kunti's kids though born from different men belonged to her). For a husband, kids also meant helping hands at work and a heir. A man without kids had no social or economic standing. Hence for a man, it was not easy to abandon his wife and kids for another woman as that would leave him alone to begin with and in a way also guilty of abandoning the kids.

In metros today, there are maximum 1-2 children per family. A woman has to spent far lesser dedicated time (6-7% ) to take care of the kids. Also these days rearing a child is way more expensive. The economic demands are such that both woman and man has to work. Hence both of them are financially liberated. As against olden days where there was both love and economic necessity to stay together, today there is only love needed for people to stay together. And ofcourse, love can be fickle and hence the increase in divorce rates.
Though lots of people say that it is against our tradition to have divorce, the economic framework on which our tradition was based has changed. Hence the increase in divorce rates and the society should as well accept it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Did you notice him?

Before my car and driver came, I would take the good old auto to my film institute. The journey which is around 35 minutes in car (in moderate traffic) becomes around 45 minutes in auto. I generally have to direct the autos to my apartment as most of the autowallahs in FilmCity do not know about Mount Mary Road.
One evening I got into an auto and told him - "Bandra. West. Lilavati ke paas - Mount Mary Road".
He said - " Pata hai Madam, kal mein hee legaya tha aapko"
"I know madam, I only took you there yesterday".
Well - I spent >45 minutes with the guy and couldn't remember him for even 1 day!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Good byes

I am wondering when was the last time my heart hurt so much that I wished I could have missed that day in my life... There have been numerous occasions when I have been hurt but some hurts are good - you learn, you introspect, you reevaluate your surroundings, but some hurts just hurt. Infact the pain reoccurs in my dreams.
The last time it hurt that bad was when I woke up in my Seattle apartment. Saurabh and mummy were still sleeping and I went till my french window. Yes it was my last day in Seattle and I knew, above everything else, how much I would miss my extremely lovable and extremely loving friends. I miss them still today.
and when did my heart hurt just as much before this? 2.5 years before the previous incident when I was sitting on the flight to Seattle (via Amsterdam), my parents and I were teary eyed, my brother , normally amused at this display of emotion were quiet and I had a beautiful letter in my hand. I didn't know a bird in Seattle (not that I know a bird in seattle now) but I didn't care about that. I cared more about leaving my family and my boyfriend. The memory of that flight (apart from good food), still makes me go numb and blank. Well, I never thought I would really make such great friends in Seattle that I would have to re-experience something similar while coming back.
Towards the end, in the movie sixth sense, Cole (the kid) tells Dr. Crowe (Bruce Willis), lets just pretend that we are going to see each other tomorrow, it makes goodbye very easy. Anybody who have experienced the pain of goodbye would know how profound it is.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Gift of Hope

How arrogant can a gift of hope make you?
Lately I was speaking to some of my college friends who claimed that Yuvvraaj made by maestro Subhash Ghai is worse than a few folks "My first project". Lots of folks said that he knew nothing about film making and used all the curse words their limited vocabulary could provide them. Saying that about a guy who has made 18 films out of which 14 were hits.
How many folks among 20 of us will be able to make our first film in coming 5 years? Almost everybody thinks they would. Almost everybody thinks their movie will be better than Subhash Ghai's movies. It's funny, almost ironical, the same set of guys who were dying to meet him, joined his institute, tgot exposed to Fellini and Truffaut and now they ridicule the guy, whose vision is their alma mater.

Infact some of them saw "Kagaz ke phool" recently. But they still don't get it. Do they? :)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Life events

So my driver's name is Wasim- a 22 year old chap. Apart from possessing great Schumacher abilities of making me reach college in 30 mins (ideally 1 hour distance) he also possesses abilities to write good shayaris (poems in Urdu). I always felt that he is gifted. And would encourage him to write verses and stories instead of idling around with other drivers. Infact I gifted him a diary (that my dad had given me) saying that I am giving you a precious thing so you better write shaayaris everyday and I will listen to them.
Past one week he came up with beautiful thought provoking verses. He infact also cameup with a nice hindi film story (which actually gave me a good insight on what the lay man of India gets excited by) and I suggested him a few more stories to write based on his experiences as a taxi driver.
Now I am resistant to change (a surprise maybe for most people but I take a lot of time to start liking people and even more to get comfortable with them. I don't show it to them as that would totally eliminate the possibility of having a healthy relationship if that is feasible). It took me 8 months to actually start liking him and providing him all the employee satisfaction that is required so after investing all this I naturally wanted him to continue for a while.

Anyways coming back to the main plot. This morning he asked me lots of questions about me leaving microsoft and the fear of not being able to earn as much as I earned in this new profession. He asked me why did I change? Was I unhappy? Was I too old for shifting gears? Can I go back if I fail in this movie industry etc etc.
And I answered them all.(what I answered would be in my future blog entries)
And well this evening I came and he told me that he has decided to give up being a driver and be a full-fledged writer. Study more Urdu and improve his art.
I was initially very sad coz that would mean now I have to search for a new driver who is willing to wait for 14 hours in college. Also now I will have to basically go through this hate love cycle to allow another person in my routine. I was scared also if I have influenced him in taking a decision that might usher his financial doom (and going by the track-record of the faculty out here - also the doom of his personal life).
But well I was happy that atleast he has dared to choose something he wants to do. And I still feel he is talented enough to produce beautiful poetries and I hope him all the best and courage to face the hardships. In his own words:

"Hamein kaichiyon se kya darna
Pankhon se nahee, hum hausolon se udte hain."
(translated without doing the poetic justice)

"These scissors don't frighten me
Not with wings, but with courage I fly"

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Restart Creative

After a long long break - I am back to blogging biz.

Outside the Mount Mary church sits a flower vendor. He chooses flowers from the infinite choices available to him to prepare a garland for God. And he waits, he waits till someone takes those flowers for giving to His God.

Is our creativity too in choosing the flowers and our divine purpose also in being someone else's medium of expression?