Archive for August 2008
Posted August 23, 2008on:
I have my arguments all ready,
And very logical too,
But who shall argue with indifference,
My phone rang, the display told me it was a call from a doctor acquaintance, whom I knew..hmm…a little. We had spoken a couple of times, even decided to get together for drinks sometime, but I had always taken that to be a pleasantry rather than there being any serious intent behind it. “What are you doing today evening” he asked me. He wants to go for drinks – I speculated, and being rather bored, it felt like a good proposition. “Nothing” I said. “Will you go on a Business meeting with me” he asked.
Oh no! Not another one! – was my instant reaction. This was not the first time I had been approached or been invited for a “Business meeting”. The expression was commonly used by the multi level marketing brigade to try and rope in new recruits. And this not the first time I had been approached by a Businessmeetinger by a far cry. In-spite of my abhorrence of the concept and the people who touted it, I somehow attracted them like flies to a light. Perhaps there is something about my face which screams “I am gullible”, or “waiting to be brain washed”.
But he is a doctor! professional, educated, enlightened, responsible, sensible – I wondered. How did he end up in all this! And I couldn’t help asking him as much. “I know people have preconceived notions about this” he said. “but its not what you think it is” “why don’t you come over and find out for yourself” he continued in an imminently rational and reasonable tone. Logical argument one would have thought, if I hadn’t heard it for the millionth time from every salesman selling his wares. And he instantly plummeted a thousand meters in my approbation.
But having touched the depths of boredom as I had, it actually felt like a reasonable way to spend my evening, if only for a few laughs. “I will come” I told him, “but only because were friends” “im never going to join up”. “we shall talk about it after the meeting is through” he said cheerfully. “But come with an open mind”, he concluded.
Posted August 13, 2008on:
A feeling sweeps over me on rare occaisons. A feeling of contentment with myself, or of “im ok”. It is not really an arrogant feeling. Its more a strong if passing beleif that I really have some worth. A feeling of being appreciated for what i really am (or the way id like to see myself). Or a sense of gladness that I am able to appreciate what is tasteful. And that there are creators who see “tasteful” as i do. This usually comes after absorbing a piece of genuinely funny humor, a meaningful debate, a touching movie, or perhaps on the play-field. I barely get this feeling from human interaction, except perhaps when I’m chatting with my close circle.
And when this feeling hits me, i experience a strange self sufficiency. That I could possibly spend the rest of my days on my own, and joyfully, without really any need for human reciproaction. And even in human relations, i feel that i may genuinely have some value, some happiness to offer.
I wish i could stretch this feeling to last longer.
Having recently come across a blogger who writes about movies with such depth and sensitivity that it’s almost staggering, I have been inspired to take up the business of movie reviews again.
The movie for the purpose of the current post is Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby. I never really was much inclined to see the movie, because of my general negative assessment of “boxing” movies. They remind me of movies like “Rocky” or its Hindi counterpart “Boxer” (Mithun) which trace the fortunes of a star boxer, who ultimately rises and triumphs after being knocked down a couple of hundred times. It is for this reason that I passed over even a classic like “Raging Bull”.
But when I was finished with MDB, I experienced an emotion that I’ve never felt for a movie. It was the feeling of emotions being piled up and rising to a pitch, but never being released. There never was a moment of catharsis, the sweeping release we feel when the lid is finally raised and the steam rushes out. And it is in this that it seems to me that the movie comes close to the currents of life, which are purely incidental, driven only by chance. It is for humans, with their awareness of existence and capacity to feel pain, to try and find meaning, where there is none inherently.
It is the story of two lives, empty and alienated, which find brief meaning in each other, till life again meanders on its meaningless path. A brief flicker in darkness, before darkness takes over again. The movie is narrated in the voice of Morgan Freeman, who tells its story with the detachment of an observer, but an observer who understands the tragedy of the characters, and harbors profound sympathy for their fate.
Clint Eastwood is Frankie, an old boxing coach, a somber character leading a lonely life, spending most of his time alone in his office reading books. All his attempts to reestablish a connection with his estranged daughter are met with failure as she refuses to have anything to do with him. The monotony of his life is broken when a 31 year old nondescript waitress, Hillary Swank, as Maggie, knocks at his doors to take her under his wing and train her to be a boxer. Hillary comes from a dysfunctional family, has a cold mother and has always led a life of obscurity. Boxing for her is her chance to come out of life where she means nothing and to find meaning and purpose.
Initially dismissive and non-interested, Frankie gives in to her perseverance and passion and decides to coach her. The movie traces her rise as a boxer and the relationship that gradually develops between Frankie and Maggie. It is certainly not romance, and maybe more akin to that of a father-daughter. But it is not even quite that. It is more the connection formed between two forlorn souls, who have finally found a hand to hold on to, found gladness and purpose in a life which was otherwise hurling towards nowhere. Maggie slowly rises to fame and reaches the very top as a boxer. Life finally seems to be heading towards being what it was meant to be. But life has other plans.
It is not in tracing her fortunes as a boxer does the movie become great. The unexpected turn the story takes in the last quarter is what makes it especially touching. An accident in the ring paralyses Maggie completely, and most likely that is how she will have to spend the rest of her life. Life which soared to the heights briefly, again tumbles down to the depths. Unable to see the suffering of the one whom he has grown to love so deeply, Frankie suffers through an intense moral dilemma, till he finally decides to pull the plug, and relieve Maggie of her pain. The action is not an endorsement of euthanasia by the director. It is merely the action of someone who takes a decision in his particular circumstances. Of being torn between being unable to see the suffering of someone you love so much, and yet unable to let go of them.
And to conclude the tale, after pulling the plug on Maggie, Frankie vanishes into the dark night, who knows where, to what town, to do what. We, with the narrator, are left to stare at the emptiness of the rooms where a human tale so touching played itself out, before disappearing forever, leaving the rooms as empty as before.
A poignancy pierces the depths of your heart. Makes you want to look up and scream at the cosmic nothingness.
One would think Indians don’t really have a sense of humor. All comic movies conclude chaotically with all characters coming together in the climax, running amok, doing facial gymnastics, Rajpal Yadav prancing about, talking in excitable tones, with “comic music” for added effect (like toinnnnnnnn, teuuuuuun, tuiiiiiiiiiiiii) etc etc. In short, an epitome of slapstick-ness. I don’t know whether to blame “jaane bhi do yaaron” for it, but it has certainly defined the parameters for Indian comedy and every movie must end on a note of orgasmic slapstickness. Even apart from that, the movie’s sense of the “funny” comprises of archana puran singh making obtuse sexual allusions (of the “kya legi” “mai dun kya” genre) or a poo laden diaper flying through the air in slow motion heading towards someone’s face.
Well, notwithstanding the above mentioned primary school brand of humor, desi humor for me is sometimes can be gut wrenchingly humorous, funnier than anything i’ve ever come across. It is somehow the funniest at its most rustic. The following are my collection of the sublimely funny!
(bless sudesh bhosle. i discovered the above two after 16 years. and they’re still as amusing at they were then!)
(who says pakis are all about long beards and ak47s. you need to know Punjabi to really appreciate the above. if u dont..i pity you!! )
Theres no doubt in my mind that a majority of contemperory movies are “image” movies. These movies target a youthful urban India and depict certain “images” through which urban India would like to see itself (the overall feel of these movies is of an ICICI ad). Apart from these images, the movies are devoid of any content or thought, or even entretainment value for me. A majority of current movies fall under this category, and movies which audiences have especially connected with are “dil chahta hai” (what an apt title, doesnt it translate to “wannabe”), and Rang De Basanti. These movies depict a certain youthfulness which is characterized by facial contortions, puppy faces, wide eyes and excitable mock tones. There is an almost plastic freshness. And there is a discovery and gradual experimentation with sexuality. Some movies touch upon the dark side of this “stylish urban modernity” like “Life in a Metro”. This movie may have been a copy of “the apartment”, but the underlying discource seemed to me to be an almost proud touting of its new found sexuality.
Perhaps these movies are a reflection of ubran india itself, which is going through a metamorphosis of identity, being subject to pressures from both the Western culture as well as the native Indian culture. A reconciliation of traditional values and western “modernity”. But what has been gleaned from “western modernity” is its most surface elements, the glitz and glamour, as depicted by the media and Hollywood, rather than its deeper currents/soul which emphasize individuality, rationality, and accomodation of the deviant/non conformist.
Disclaimer – It is likely that my views come from the fact that my small town sensibilities are jolted. What is natural to someone in urban india may seem to me to be “pretentious”.