Month: May 2009

Gandhi, Guha and the Moolah

Contemporary history’s best-known ‘fakir’ has landed his latest biographer the fattest kitty in the annals of Indian publishing. Penguin India has offered an advance of Rs 1 crore to bag historian Ram Guha’s two-volume project on Mahatma Gandhi in a quiet but stunning recession-era deal that has wowed the competition and pitched Indian book industry into the global league.

From here.

Well, what more can one say!


Ulysses and Us

In August 1924, the long-suffering Stanislaus Joyce sent a letter of complaint to his brother, James, in which he mentioned his difficulties with Ulysses. “The greater part of it I like,” he wrote, before adding with characteristic bluntness: “I have no humour with episodes which are deliberately farcical… and as episodes grow longer and longer and you try to tell every damn thing you know about anybody that appears or anything that crops up, my patience oozes out.”

from here

I have been meaning to read Ulysses for quite some time now, so much so that the book has been lying on my bookself for the past year and half, but to be true the only thing that brings my enthusiasm down is that Joyce talks about anything to everything there, and often laced with puns, allusions and hidden meanings, so the fear being that I may not be able to understand and appreciate everything.
Well, let’s see, may be this summer.

Weekend Movies

The ReturnThe Return is a moving drama about two brothers whose father returns back after twelve long years. The brothers Ivan and Andrey, aged around twelve and fifteen respectively, live with their mother and grandmother. While Andrey, has an amiable, going with the wind attitude, younger Ivan is much more stubborn and deeply emotional. As they run back home after a fight between themselves, they are shocked to know their father is back, whom they then confirm from an old faded photograph. Slowly the strains of the long absence start becoming obvious as the father fails to show any enthusiasm towards them. Then he tells them of the fishing trip they will be doing a day after. So begins a difficult journey, which slowly becomes emotional as well as psychological in nature as, on one hand Andrey strives to please his father despite his cold demeanor, whereas on the other hand their begins a battle of sorts between Ivan and the father, with both adamant and resentful as ever towards each other. Their journey then takes them to a mysterious island, while the strain between the three almost increases even more.

The movie has a keen elliptical quality as it’s never made clear where the father had been for those years and why he went to that island. Though the father and Andrey deliver their performances very well, it’s Ivan who becomes the soul of the story, capturing the seething undercurrents of the movie. The movie is also cinematically quite accomplished but not that much to earn comparisons with Tarkovsky, as few critics had done.

Quite sadly, the kid who plays Andrey drowned in a lake shortly after the shooting was over.

The movie won, Andrey Petrovich Zvyagintsev, the director, a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.


Girl on the BridgeAt times how well a movie finally comes out to be depends entirely on its lead character, or may be it appears so because of certain performances. Vanessa Chantal Paradis, acting as Adèle, delivers one such performance in The Girl on the Bridge. Adèle is one visceral as well as unlucky girl, who hopelessly falls in love with every guy she meets and as luck has for her the meetings always end as an act of promiscuousness. The opening scene, a monologue by Adèle, addressing as it looks to some jury, almost sets the tone of the movie. Disappointed by her failed love affairs Adèle has decided to end her life, so as she’s about to jump from a bridge she’s stalled by a knifethrower, who talks her out to be his target girl in the knife throwing act. Hesitatingly she agrees and thus begins their journey of luck and adventure.

The movie’s shot in black and white, saddled with swooping camera movements, which give the movie the fleetingness it desires. With echoes of La Strada, the movie may not be that original but Vanessa portrayal of Adèle does adds freshness to it.

Here’s the opening scene.

Cannes 2009, Awards

Palme d’Or : THE WHITE RIBBON directed by Michael HANEKE

Grand Prix : A PROPHET directed by Jacques AUDIARD

Award for Best Director : Brillante MENDOZA for KINATAY

Award for Best Screenplay : LOU Ye for Spring Fever

Award for Best Actress : Charlotte GAINSBOURG in ANTICHRIST directed by Lars VON TRIER

Award for Best Actor :Christoph WALTZ in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS directed by Quentin TARANTINO

Jury Prize Ex-aequo :FISH TANK directed by Andrea ARNOLD &  THIRST directed by PARK Chan-Wook

Vulcain Prize for an artist technician : MAP OF THE SOUNDS OF TOKYO directed by Isabel COIXET

Lifetime achievement award : WILD GRASS directed by Alain RESNAIS


Complete List Here

NYT Article

On Memory

We tend to be sad at loss of things.
What about memory?
Don’t we forget also?
How about memory’s pain,
it’s sadness,
it’s strive to remember,
it’s act of burial.


Is melancholy an act of memory weeping?
Weeping and keeping things to itself.

What is melancholy? a sense of sadness without any reason,
just like cold caressing wind on a dry summer night,
with the sky venting out it’s cry somewhere else.


The most faithful act memory can do is to keep a secret by forgetting it.


Isn’t memory the most faithful mistress ever,
always there, keeping together every shred of our existence.

but a casual whim and we could lose ourselves for ever.

may be schizophrenia is an act of euthanasia,
an act of memory, relieving us of it’s burden.

but then is memory a burden on us? or the other way round.

The courtyard

It was that time of the day when a little rain and few clouds make the sun give everything around a dusty look. Sitting at one end was Grandma enjoying the weather and watching the mundane everyday affair. Children were playing in the courtyard, with Mala shouting, asking them to go and play outside.

“Shanu! Go outside and play, your father is about to come. And I won’t be saving you from the beating this time”, Mala shouted again.

“Ma today’s saturday. He won’t be back till 9”, came the retort.

“SHANU!!”, she came out with a broom in her hand, threatening to sweep aside the kids as if she’s had been transformed into Gulliver or they into Lilliputians.

The kids ran away, but then stopped again just outside the main door, turning back to ascertain the resolve in their mother’s eyes. But there she was, just an arm’s length from them, still marching towards them. With a loud shout, mixed with laughter and thrill, they ran again, this time not turning back till they had left 4-5 similarly constructed houses behind.

The courtyard is pretty small, though big by any standards in their locality, as few seasons ago Mala’s family and theirs decided to bring down the wall separating their houses so as to increase the courtyard.

Today Grandma was alone at home as Biju, her son, had taken his wife and their son to the nearby Circus. It was Biju’s father and Mala’s father in law, who had struck the deal. Both had been partners in the Pan-Bidi shop they had been running together for 15 years. And since most of the time one was at other’s house, one fine day they decided to bring the wall down. People around were filled with envy when they heard the news, not that they didn’t envy their friendship before but the thought of an increased courtyard added weight to it. So much so that grandma considered their death, after an unruly drunk driver ran into their small pan-bidi shop during night, to be the bad omen brought by covetousness of the community. Now she seemed to have gotten over the incident, partly by the fact that both would be together in the after world.

Grandma was looking across the sky, may be hoping to catch a glimpse of her husband in some formation of the clouds, or may be wondering how many rains it will take for his memories to wash away.

There was a knock on the door, as the door was open the men outside were peeking inside. They were in bit better clothes, or rather far better clothes going by the standards around the slum they were living in. As is the instinct always, Mala sensed them from some government office. May be they are in there to give the compensation for the accident that took three seasons ago, grandma wondered. She looked at them and then turned her gaze away as she saw Mala marching towards them. Of late she seemed to be quite detached from anything that seemed to happen around her.

Grandmother looked at them again, as the noise of their chattering grew. She saw Mala and the three other men coming towards her.

The one in black shirt asked, “AuntyJi, Who is eldest of the family?”

“Tell them Ma, who is the elder one Biju or Shyam”, added Mala.

Grandma looked at them with a blank not understanding what they were asking. The other two men looked impatient; one in white shirt muttered something to the one in black.

Mala rephrased the question again, “Ma Isn’t Shyam elder than Biju?”

Grandma shaked her head, though nobody could decipher whether it was affirmation or she just wanted them to ask the question again. Mala looked worried, managing a smile she looked at the officer in Black. Slightly nodding his head, the officer said, “Alright, it ok now”, and he wrote something in a paper, then asked Mala to write something, then nodded again saying something to grandma, which she again couldn’t understand.

Fifteen minutes later she was still sitting at the same spot. It was getting dark now. She could hear the chirping of the kids, they were coming back. Shyam had been back home, few minutes ago and she had been hearing him and Mala fighting again as usual. Suddenly there was a big bang at the main door, Binu came jumping in and as he caught glimpse of grandma he came running towards her.

“Ma I saw a huge Lion there. A man was making him do things as if the  Lion was a cat.”, said Binu with excitement. Just then he saw the other kids and ran towards them.

Shyam had come out now and was taking to Biju. Biju was now shouting at Shyam. They looked to be fighting over something, but grandma couldn’t be sure, she dismissed it as a daily chore and turned her gaze towards the kids. Mala had also joined the fight, and then suddenly Shyam slapped her. There was silence for some seconds. Grandma looked at them more attentively now, though again she couldn’t understand much but they seemed to be talking about some Municipal Officers, doing some legalization, and the land on which they were living now now was in Shyam’s name.

As Shyam moved his eyes from Mala to Biju, his expression of hatred slowely turned to be of being ashamed. Grandma now understood what had was happening. With her eyes watery now, she turned her gaze again towards the sky, hoping to unite with her husband soon.

The Last Life in the Universe

Kenji is a librarian, living in clean house stacked with books. He has been attempting suicide for some time but something or the other always saves him or rather something always happens just before he is about to commit it. Then one day as he’s about to attempt another suicide, he witnesses an accident of a girl named Nid. He then lands up in the hospital, while helping her sister Noi, and then eventually at Noi’s home. And there begins a small friendship, which distracts Kenji from his habitual attempts of suicide as he ends up spending few days at Noi’s place.

Kenji is also obsessed with the story of The Last lizard, which is about a lizard who one day realizes that he is the last of his species left on earth. This is from where the tile of the movie comes from. Though it’s not mentioned explicitly but somewhere inside Kenji believes himself to be that lizard.


The most sublime thing about The Last Life in the Universe is its pace. Even when suicide almost is a daily chore, three people are killed just like that, fourth one dies in an accident, yet life is unhurried at best there. Things move as if in unison, even while they are moving towards opposite ends. While Kenji is a cleanliness freak, Noi’s place just has a look of abandonment. Kenji is Japanese and Noi a Thai, with none knowing more than a word or two of each other’s language. Even the English they speak is broken. Noi slowly turns into Nid and then back to Noi again. One scene Kenji is caught for murder that he did commit and the next we see him back to Noi in Japan. Things do move, but it’s all very calm and quite, it’s not even that there is an underlying stretch of restrain which may break everything if something is disturbed. It’s just like dripping in abandonment, something that someone may feel, if he’s the last life in the universe.