Gandu – The Loser

For those who have no clue what this is all about, Gandu is a Bengali movie directed by Quashiq Mukherjee aka Q. It is 90 mins of B/W and a vocal jackhammer. It is already creating waves internationally, but don’t expect an Indian release. Here’s why :

The movie has already taken campuses by storm. All with just two trailers.

Music for the movie has been provided entirely by the city’s own Five Little Indians, with Gandu himself doing the rapping.

Fucked up? Yes. Brilliant? Possibly.
Not everybody’s cup of tea anyway.


In defense of Saat Khoon Maaf

There were seven.

The first one was a sneering major. Who had a moustache. It looked tailor made for his sneer. That probably did him in in the end. His chest hair and his impotency too, maybe, but for that I will give Susanna the benefit of doubt. And dude, there’s a time and place for making out, even with your wife. Mere andar ka janwar toh jaag gaya hai is hardly something you say while hunting for a panther. Its not even corny. Its suicidal. No wonder she sent hiim to the asli janwar. Happy making out.

The next renames himself Jim, fine.He gets married and sings her a plagiarised song as a wedding gift while lying naked in the rain. He was lucky she didn’t murder him when she found out about that. And he was GAY. Well, what other hunk sings in a boys choir? Eh? And the clothes he was wearing at the concerts. His getup looked like he was trying to be, in turn, Axl Rose on steroids or Hendrix on a steady regime of Garnier Men’s Fairness Cream. Even that she tolerated. He starts doing heroin and cross dress (with skimpy clothes. G-A-Y). Runs around (semi) naked with (semi) naked girls playing laser tag (even Barney Stinson would be shocked) and not even act ashamed at being found out. Sigh. Even then she kept him alive. She tied him to the bed and tried to get him detoxed (under different circumstances, that could even have been sexy). No use. So she gave him his lover of choice, the girl with golden eyes. I’m surprised he lasted that long.

Then there was the poet by day and sadist abusive sex fiend by night. I won’t say much about him, because he makes me sick. Anyone, one shouldn’t knock about a psychopath murderer and expect to get away with it. He got a decent death, I say. Way more decent than he deserved, actually. They khodo-fied a grave and gaaro-ed him there, Too soft. It should have been more brutal.

Then was, umm, right, the Russian. Probably said the corniest line ever. A reply to mere paas gaari hai is under no circumstances mere paas ma hai. BLEH. He didn’t do much though, just had another wife and child in another country. Ass, didn’t you notice that your darrling was one wife too many already? R.I.P.

Ahhhh, the police officer. Some brilliant, brilliant work there. A decade long infatuation which finally came to fruition when he helped her not get convicted for murder of her last hubby dearest. That should have warned him. It didn’t. He just allowed himself to be led. She thought she could discard him whenever, but she gave him too much ‘sukh and santosh‘ that first night. God that had to be one of the craziest and moving (literally, not figuratively) scenes. Rather like an ad which used to come on TV, just more… real. And then he kept coming back for more. So she married him and OD’ed him. Guess on what. Anyway, that had to be her shortest tryst of marriage (one scene long), but then there was a lot of foreplay, I suppose 😀

Finally, the Bong doctor. Spoke Hindi with a Bengali accent, spoke English with a Bengali accent. Spoke Bengali with a Bengali accent. Absolutely authentic. Obsessed with mushrooms. It was only a matter of time that he got the girl (well, everyone knows that Bongs are irresistible). And then he tried to kill her for money. Actually the only one who actually tried to do so. So he went out with a bang. quite literally. Not how i would wanna die, actually. *shudder*

I shall not speak about the seventh one, since he was already dead and she drank his blood. I just think he got too much screen time. Just a silhouette would have been enough.

And finally there was the one who got away. Her khargosh, the one she later tried to seduce, the only one who loved her yet saw her for who she was. Lucky chap to be alive, honestly. I wonder, though, who got away from whom.

Never Let me Go – The movie

Based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Directed by Mark Romanek.
Screenplay by Alex Garland.

There are very few movies which live up to the book its based on. This one is one of them. Probably because the author was involved in the whole process, the movie captures almost everything that was in his book. For me, this is probably the best movie of 2010. Maybe because it does not seek much attention, it is not brash or loud. It is a very quiet movie, just like the book was. I have already written about the book and why I like it so much, so let me talk about how the movie turns out.

The screenplay is absolutely brilliant. Some elements from the book have been subtly altered, and some have been entirely left out, but it has been done so in a way such that the flow is never hampered. This is not easy to do, since the the movie goes back and forth like the book, narrated by Kathy H. The narration itself is quiet, but each word resonates ever so deeply.
Mark Romanek has done a great job with the cinematography. He has deftly given swathes of colour, warmth and emotion to a movie whose content and context is so bleak. The lights, the sounds, the loneliness, the words spoken and unspoken, everything adds to the atmosphere of the movie to make it a poignant watch.

And finally, the acting. Much as I like Keira Knightley, I have never thought much of her as an actor. But in this movie she excels. The role of Ruth, beautiful, sharp Ruth is divided between her and newcomer Ella Purnell, who plays a younger Ruth in Hailsham. Keira Knightley is a far cry from her usual glamorous self. This role asks for an edginess, the rawness of a person whose life falls apart bit by bit, and she is all Ruth is. Probably her best performance till date.

Andrew Garfield was also a new name to me. As the grown up Tommy who has managed to check his bouts of rage, and then to the Tommy in the final stages as life finally overcomes him. His happiness, his pain, his anger, his acceptance, Andrew Garfield has brought to life all the contrasts that are Tommy.

And finally, Carey Mulligan as Kathy. I had seen her just once before in a small role on TV which I had absolutely loved. And here, she steals the show. The director realises the full potential of the character and the actor playing it and focuses a lot on her. In many ways, that is strange since Kathy is the quietest in the trio. But the empathy and the sadness that one sees in her eyes all through, as well as her smile in lighter moments, she speaks volumes through her expressions. Her voice and her eyes, every word she says, that is what keeps this movie together, that is what makes it so beautiful.

This is the sort of movie which could have easily gone so wrong. But thankfully, it gets almost everything right.

Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

It has been years since I first read this book. And I have kept coming back to it again, and again, and again. The story of three people walking a road which has been set for them by the world around them. This, however, is not a book of rebellion. It is one of acceptance. Narrated by Kathy H, the reader follows the lives of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy from their childhood days at Hailsham, a boarding school where all the students are ‘special’, and all of them have a fixed purpose in life. It is only slowly that Ishiguro reveals the nature of the world around them, their predestined fate and how each of them cope with it. From Hailsham we see them growing up as the author paints a beautiful portrait of their lives, so familiar yet so different. Once adults, life takes them separate ways, but the three friends remain tied together. Ruth, the donor slowly falling apart, giving up on life, the contrasts in her character getting highlighted all the time. Tommy, the donor who braves life in his own way, his rage subsiding as he slowly comes to terms with what is to be. And Kathy, the carer who walks with us in this story, her quiet and serenity somehow smoothing out even the harshest of edges by a bit.
Ishiguro continues in his tradition of writing books which have no clear climax, or shall we say, closure. The melancholia that is in the pages seeps into the reader. But he never uses that melancholia as the driving force. The vitality that is there in the book is also very real, very tangible.
In an interview the author had mentioned the difference between the book and the movie as modes of expression. The book, he claimed, need not give the reader much to go upon. He most certainly does not. He gives the bare necessities, and the rest is for the imagination of the reader to fill in. Let us just say that in this book, however might your brushstrokes be on his canvas, what remains at the end of the book is bound to be beautiful.

if nobody speaks of remarkable things – jon mcgregor

“A quiet sunday afternoon, the last day of smmer. In his room at No 18, a nervous young man is storing his things: a small clay figure, covert photographs of his neighbours, pieces of urban junk. Two doors down, a blonde girl is packing her possessions, uncertain of where she’s going next. Across the road, a mother and father are sneaking away to the bedroom and locking the door; a houseful of young people are emerging from their night before; a man is painting the window-frames of his house. There is cricket, a barbecue, music, voices drifting from open windows – it had seemed such an ordinary afternoon on an ordinary street.

But this is an extraordinary day, like any other. A day crammed full of the unspoken, of love stories, unacknowledged grievances, unwitnessed triumphs, and, as the day falls to a close, a terrible moment of tragedy.

Later, the blonde girl will remember this day again and again; and when a chance meeting causes her to look through the young man’s box of personal archives, she will wonder at the photographs of all these people she knew nothing about. And she will ask herself how she never noticed the the boy from No 18 was in love with her.

With heart-stopping clarity, the lives of a city street are brought indelibly before the reader, taken on focus like Polaroids on the page.”

I was taken in by the time I had read the first paragraph; ‘The city, it sings…’.

I will draw a comparison with one of my favourite authors here, Kazuo Ishiguro. In many ways this book is the opposite of an Ishiguro novel. Ishiguro’s prose is taut, flawless. Jon Mcgregor does not seem to care much for capitalisation, separation of direct speech from the indirect, or for punctuation where it is sometimes expected. Ishiguro has the protagonist narrating the whole story. Jon lets the protagonist narrate the present, while he intersperses the narration with his own background of the past, a narrator who does not want to give away all he knows, and slowly eases the reader into the story; very similar to the way Haruko Murakami narrates in After Dark.

In some other ways, though, the author shares a lot with Ishiguro. Both authors can make you feel the wind on your face, the rain dripping from your hair and down your back. Both can make words come alive, not with flamboyant gestures but with a quiet assurance. Both have an undercurrent of deep melancholia which makes a beautiful contrast to the not so few smiling bits in the stories.

If Ishiguro writes poetry, Jon Mcgregor has written beautiful lyrics to the city’s music in his book. It has been a while since I’ve read something this beautiful, this poignant. This book is absolutely gorgeous in a very quiet, understated way. If you can find it, read it. It will haunt you…..

‘I look at my room, at the table with the flowers and the pot of tea, the two cups, I think how nice two cups on a table can look.’

‘And there’s a smell in the air, swelling and rolling, a smell like metal scraped clean of rust, a hard cleanness, the air tight with it, sprung, an electric tingle winding from the ground to the sky, a smell that unfurls in the back of the mouth, dense, clammy, a smell without a name but easy to recognise and everyone in the street knows it, besides the children, everyone is smelling the air and looking upwards, saying or thinking it smells like rain.’

‘He says, if nobody speaks of remarkable things, how can they be called remarkable?’

The Calligrapher – Edward Docx

My letters looked beautiful, no doubt, but writing when you’re upset is like writing when you’re drunk: it feels great at the time (profound, even) and yet when you read it back in the morning – my God. Even at the most sober of times, words are hardly to be trusted – put two or three of them together and they immediately start revolting, conspiring unintended meanings here, fermenting duplicitous nuances there, and firing off in the wrong directions as and when they please. Of course, what I would really have liked to do was write her something so true, so moving, so elegant, so witty, so insightful, so fin, so direct and so oblique that she could not help but surrender – a poem, perhaps, or a whole cycle entitled ‘Songs and Sonnets’. In the end, though, I found that I could not rely on words at all beyond carrying out the most basic tasks. So I settled for three lines – the postscript from my first effort…..

I picked this book up from the British Library in the same manner (and for the same reasons) that i’ve usually found books and music since class 11…because it looked interesting and i was always ready for experimentation. the book looked alluring (for not just the cover) since it was woven around a collection of poems by John Donne. But it has turned out to be way better than anything I expected from it.

I shall not go into the details of the story. Or the story at all, for that matter. I shall instead focus on how the book goes about seducing (the best word I came across after careful thought) the reader. Spoken from the male protagonist’s point of view, the book is witty, candid, thoughtful, dark and heartwarming at the same times. Throughout the narrative, the author keeps on making spot-on observations on life, love, relationships, London, and the universe in general. The storyline is thoughtfully conceived, well woven and flawlessly executed. It never lacks pace, and has its tastefully sprinkled share of twists and turns. and then there is the one which hits you, which would have been the most brilliant climax possible, but the author is still holding something up his sleeve. you (specially if you’re well versed with your o’henry and saki) expect it, anticipate it for page after page….and the author carefully sidesteps your efforts to out think him. and then when you’re least expexting it. WHAM! the book finishes off with a grand flourish, leaving you gasping for your breath.

i gobbled this book up (ok, that’s not new)…and it was some of the most wicked (in a most complimentary sense) storytelling i’ve seen in quite a while. get it if you can, and read it.

Thoughts of rain…

What would one say of a singer-songwriter who died at 26, having released only 3 albums which received next to none commercial success, a victim of depression all his life? We know our Dylan and our Gilmore and our Parker, but Nick Drake was not just a musician, he was a poet……a poet of words and of notes. He isn’t loud, he doesn’t demand your attention. His songs form images in your mind, of all that he sings and of all that he does not…of spring and autumn, of leaves and lakes, of rain and sand….of all the things we seem to forget about whilst we live our conveyor belt lives.

You don’t just listen to his music, you feel it with all your senses, and at times with senses you didn’t think you possessed. He looks for the profound in the mundane. His every note is filled with so much emotion it cannot fail to touch you.

Turn off the lights. Listen to pink moon, or river man, or road, or black eyed dog, or thoughts of rain…go take a walk, or sit on the terrace and gaze at the stars, soak in his music…You won’t forget that feeling…ever…

Music has had better heralds, better musicians, better lyricists, better storytellers…Nick Drake might or might not be one of them…only time will tell. He is one of those rare musicians who bares his soul through six strings and his fragile voice and draws us into his world…..

You can say the sun is shining if you really want to
I can see the moon and it seems so clear
You can take the road that takes you to the stars now
I can take a road that’ll see me through
I can take a road that’ll see me through…

Face/off: flushed away vs. ratatouille

Rats! i saw both these rodent movies within weeks of each other. Flushed away made the cut first owing to sheer curiosity on my part. ratatouielle a while later on a lazy kolkata afternoon. as for what the movies had to offer….

1. pixar animation. as brilliant as always.
2. an unorthodox plot. i mean, rat chefs? come on….
3. brilliant performances from a relatively unknown cast.
4. an academy award.

flushed away:
1. animated by the makers of wallace and gromit. its got that otherworldly charm…
2. brilliant, brilliant acting, from a brilliant, brilliant cast. hugh jackman, kate winslet, andy serkis, jean reno and ian mcKellen do excellent jobs. the last two were cut out for the roles they played in the movie. ian mcKellen as the head of the rat mafia. and he’s a TOAD. and jean reno. part poirot (a rather large part), heads his own group of ninja frogs, who are adept at things like singing, dancing and mime-acting. charming.
3. fast paced and has humour which, to my knowledge, only the british are capable of. add to that dashes of french subtlety and we have a laugh riot. honestly.

both movies are brilliant in their own sense. flushed away is more humanoid, yet have humans in only the first scene or so. then its all rats. ratatouielle has humans and rats coexisitng, and while the rat does manage to communicate with the humans, the two species, as dictates logic, are incapable of conversing with each other.

i loved both movies. but if i do have to take a pick, i’d go with flushed away. though imdb gives ratatouielle a higher rating, flushed away was able to charm me more. probably due to the british-ness of the movie and its contrast with the french. its fun.

watch both.