Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wistful for my punk days!

Oh dammit man. Googling for Naga drums led to one thing (Northeast India) and to another (to Shillong) and another and had me ending up looking at some of our old music videos on youtube. We used to be called Right To Be Left band and we performed punk, garage rock and some metal (without the screams). Our philosophy was, the moment we would become pop rock we should all die. Haha

I am all wistful for those times gone past now! And just when I need to get lots of work done!

Here is a video that my brother uploaded in 2008. Though it was uploaded then, the song was recorded in my old college studio as part of my project demo at Media school in 2007 or something. Pretty old. But still pumping and rockin'! haha.

Naga Drum and the obscurity of the Naga presence on the internet

I am trying to find what a Naga drum looks like, but I can't find any image even on google. Isn't that amazing? Sometimes its annoying that Naga culture is so obscure, that even to a person who knows where to look and where I can find, I still find it so hard to track anything about Nagas down. Imagine how much impossible it will be for someone who has no idea about us and is trying to find out any information from scratch.

Where does one look? Where do you start?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

E.E.

E.E. is a character who calls himself a citizen of the world. E.E. could  be an acronym for his name or it could just be his name as it is.. It could be Elijah Emory, it could be Eit Ent, it could be Electronics Entry. Anything.


E.E. goes around the world from cities to cities and writes a series of poetry and memoirs of places and people and events. All we know about E.E. is from these entries..

That is what I am doing now. I don't know how long this will go on. But its not bound by time limit or interest. It is vague, it can be about anything at all..

At the moment the manuscript for CH-CH is in Majestic building in city. No access. So that is at a temporary hold off.

You can read E.E. at my other blog ohbenning.tumblr.com.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

This film should be called “The Children of Marx and Coca-Cola.” (Masculine Feminine)




This film should be called “The Children of Marx and Coca-Cola.” (Masculine Feminine)


 I was at Border’s last Sunday. Just spending the afternoon away, not upto much. Read a book of poetry by a New Zealander Amy (something) titled Propaganda Poster Girl. She had written this collection of poems on her travels around Vietnam, Cambodia and then back in her home in New Zealand. Loved it.


And then just before I left, I browsed through the DVD section and found this French film called Masculine Feminine by Jean Luc Godard. Now I had heard this man’s name when I studied film in Shillong. He was one of the great directors of the French New Wave. He also quoted: “All you need to shoot a movie is a pretty girl and a camera.”


Now, to me, when I come across some work of art and it makes me wish that I had been the one who did it, then I consider it good art. Godard makes me wish I was him. That I was a part of this revolutionary independent film wave and that I was the one who instead said, ”All you need to shoot a movie is a pretty girl and a camera.”


I got this DVD for $5 instead of the advertised $39.99 because it happened to be on sale when I picked it up. How amazing. Surely it was a sign this was meant to be.


Sure enough..


The film is life changing material. Like Tokyo Story by Yasuziro Ozu was. LikeShortcomings by Adrian Tomine was.


I found this review online and I thought I couldn’t have said any better (excuse the mono-paragraph, I know its annoying to read without paragraph breaks!):



Masculine, Feminine
(1966, France, d. Jean-Luc Godard)
Most of the students I watched this film with groaned and complained at the end of it. The biggest complaints: it had no story, no plot, and was basically style over substance. All I was thinking was that this was clearly their first Godard movie. And though I’m the last person to defend style over substance, Godard’s films have substance, they’re just hidden: modern and ultra-hip but lost protagonists. Godard’s leads don’t know what they want, they just know that they have wants. Godard’s leads don’t go to a place with goal, they travel spot to spot aimlessly, musing on the condition of their role in society or reflecting postmodern ideals in every line. One of my friends, after I told him this film was about its style, complained that he felt Godard was just trying to draw attention to himself in a manner like “Look guys! Look how artsy I am”. And while that comment would be applicable had his films been released a decade or even five years after they were, it definitely isn’t here. For Godard was not using examples of the past and stretching them to be artsy, he was creating artsiness. He wasn’t trying to be indie, but he was trying to break away from the norms of French traditional cinema. And for that, I think he is an exemplary and inspirational figure in filmmaking. While I don’t think this is his best film, it’s up there. The musings on sex and the social obligations a man faces and dating imposes are brilliant and the fact that he wanted to make a pure character film on postmodernism is fascinating. To some it was boring, but to me it was riveting. But I think Godard must be prefaced, must be introduced, before viewing his films. His influence is now so commonplace amongst independent pictures and Hollywood blockbusters alike, one would never guess that it did in fact begin with him. But for what it is, Masculin-Feminin is a relaxed and contemplative look at the youth of then-present day France –  and what’s even better – it feels a lot like today.
(aneeshchaganty.wordpress.com)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Divine



Went to the mountains last weekend. The mountains are divine. 
I was climbing this hill and was hoping to be rewarded with a good view at the top. I was barefoot as well. The grass and tussock wet with dew were pleasantly cool, some parts were a bit harsh with rocks and thistles. At some places I had to dodge cow and sheep dropping.
And then I got to the top and the came right up to the face of the cliff that fell away to this vast open countryside with the mountains flanking the edges. Beautiful!

On Sugar Loaf Hill


Sitting on the ridge of Sugar Loaf Hill and facing out toward the Southern Alps stretching across the horizon far as the eye could see, feeling the wind that swept up from the valley gap between the ridge I was on and the ridge that I was looking at, tasting faint trace of snowberry in my mouth that I had eaten on my way up the steep face, I realise that was a dream come true.
I had in many many imagination played this scene in my mind in the past. It was no surprise therefore that watching the vast mystic expanse of the mountain country I felt familiarity, not surprise or alienation, though I very well knew that I had never been to that place in my living memory.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Jesus impressed and disgusted

Mark records how Jesus picked his disciples and started his ministry by going around to places. He became 'popular' and was sought after to heal people and to perform miracles.

Jesus then went to his hometown. There he found the people were uptight. They knew Jesus too well. They knew him when he was growing up, they watched him work on the carpentry shop with his father, they knew his mother, they knew too much. And would not believe that here he had become a great miracle worker.

And the Bible says Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith! There are only two instances to my memory where it is recorded in the Bible that Jesus was amazed.
1. He was amazed at the faith of the 'pagan' centurion who asked him to heal his daughter saying that he doesn't even have to set foot in his house, Jesus only has to say the word and she would be healed. And
2. this is the other instance where Jesus was amazed: seeing people in the other spectrum of the faith scale. Here were the people from his own hometown, having absolutely no faith. They were filled with all knowledge and made their judgment according to that. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.

Maybe we think that we can impress our God by pretty songs we write and pretty words we use when we pray. Or by 'obeying' and going to the Third world to 'lend a helping hand to the poor and the destitute' there. Or by doing this and that. Or by reading a few chapters of the Bible before going  to sleep so that your last waking thoughts are scriptural. Or by making sure you read the devotional before you log into Facebook in the morning.

I don't know.. Maybe God is.

But I know that he is impressed by faith. It gives him room to do what he intends to do. It gives him a lot of working space. It is like saying, whatever God, I know you can do it.

I wrote somewhere in my writing book (I remember it was on the way to Queenstown few weeks ago in the bus):
There is a difference between logic and lack of faith. Too many times we blame logic when all we are under is lack of faith.
How can we say?
Because sometimes having faith is the most logical thing to do.

I realise that nothing impresses or disgusts Jesus more than faith or the lack of it. It says that he was unable to do anything in his own hometown, as much as he loved them. It was the lack of faith.

Good things can happen to you. God can work in your life. But you can disable him by not believing He can and will do it. 

Book Review - Delhi Is Not Far


Delhi Is Not Far - Ruskin Bond
4/5
Ruskin Bond is a content man. Atleast I think so. Sure he has bills to pay, sure he has people to worry for. But his writing says that he is content. He is not trying to prove his worth in this world where everyone is stretching themselves to come up with the bestseller. He knows his worth, it seems. And writing is only an extension of his life. 90% of his life is LIVED, not talked about.

This man lives at the foothill town of the Himalayas. This book is about how his character goes away to Delhi for some vague reason and starts to miss the hills and how he eventually winds his way back. His stories are always synonymous with his love affair with the mountains and its people. His writing comes out of a deeper well of affection and respect for the people he knows/meets and lives surrounded by. Not the shallow well of research and mere study.

You can get bored of Ruskin Bond, because after reading about ten of his stories, you see a pattern emerging. But if you share the similar love for humanity and nature that he does, you willl never get ‘bored’. After all ‘bored’ is a modern urban term. It doesn’t exist on the mountains, where the peaks stand consistent day to day, month to month, year to year and decade to centuries

Book Review - Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Man


Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Man - James Joyce
5/5
I read this book few years ago. I picked it up because it had a very cool cover. And the content totally lived up to the cover. Not necessarily in coolness but in substance.

James Joyce is one writer I am proud to have read. He is not easy to read. This particular one would go down as the simplest and most straightforward.

It follows a character through his days in Catholic school. Through a bit of bullying at sports, through the fire and brimstone preaching at the chapel, through his affair with this woman off the street, through his final decision to not let any association to the nation, church or people determine who he becomes. 
Partly a story of defiance, partly self discovery and letting go of all his Irish nationalism.

Another instant five stars.

Book Review - Never Let Me Go


Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
5/5
I think this one is one of my all time favourite as much as I can remember. The ending sequence is the most moving. But the whole book read like a conversation with the character. So well written.
What I found most amazing about this book was the gloom and the air of forbidding that lingered on you as you read it. The description of Hailsham, the school, was cheery enough and normal enough, but you always always felt an air of doom.. As though all the English-ness, all the good happy memories were just the unnerving quiet before the storm…
The characters were extremely believable, as real as a person I know, as human as my good friends going through a morose phase in his/her life..
Instant five stars

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ulysses, Blueberries & 'Ordinary'


I bought Ulysses yesterday from Borders. I was actually on the lookout for Ishiguro’s Remains Of The Day, the one he got Booker Prize for. But I think it sold out.
Two years ago I read Ulysses, or atleast the first half of it. I had rented it from the library. It was overdue so I had to return it before I finished it. I don’t claim to understand almost half of what the book was about. But I read it for the reading itself, not necessarily for the meaning. I realised that when I was reading it, my writing also got quite vague and thoughtful and more floaty. Joyce’s writing (and especially in this book), I learnt, recorded every excruciating and pleasant detail. He considered the everyday life, the everyday happenings to be of significance. 
Well, in fact, he didn’t believe in ‘significant’. Every second was the same. No moment in life was more significant than the other. 
I believe thats the last thing that the world perceives life as nowadays. Everyone is on the lookout for that special time, moment, person, that hero, that ‘special’ out the ‘ordinary’. In almost a way that defiles the everyday and the ‘ordinary’.
There is a saying that I love:
Earth’s crammed with heaven
and every common bush afire with God
But he only sees, takes off his shoes
the rest sit around and pluck blueberries.
Most people miss the ‘common bush’ when they are too busy looking for the ‘sensational’ blue berries. 
Personally I believe that people need to start seeing the ‘ordinary’ as holy and precious. The little half an hour spent on your couch doing nothing is as beautiful as that ‘noble’ hour you spent ‘helping’ someone out on the street. The day you won the World Cup and held the trophy high under the bright lights as precious as the crap morning you woke up on the wrong side of the bed and felt terrible till 10am.
A man sweeping the street in Delhi as precious as the man who gets a thousand people to ‘follow’ his twitter.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

On Hinduism


Tonight I was talking with a friend about Hinduism (and also Buddhism) and the whole essence of the religion. I told him that I really like Hinduism and I really feel like I can agree with many of its idea and thoughts. Not that I do, but you know, the compatibility.
He says, well the idea with Hinduism is you work and work and work hard in this life, just so you can come to a point of nothingness. Who strives towards nothingness? I like Islam and Judaism because they are more like us (Christians), but Hinduism sounds a lot like the purposeless existence..
But what if we don’t know what we know? What if we were born in the context where you knew nothing about the individualism that Western and Christian thought so emphasize on? The idea of humanism, about the uniqueness and purposefulness of our existence? It is not necessarily the absolute truth that man was born for a ‘reason’ is it?
People have to not look at Hinduism from a certain tinted glass. As much as people can wrong Christianity by looking at it from their own standpoint.
In fact I think that the ‘nothingness’ of the ultimate state is a great idea (if I may use the word). The idea of harmony with oneself, and the world around us, is just what many people get to get a grip around. The idea of neutrality would lead to more peace. 
Well, I am not trying to win you over to Hinduism, haha. All I am saying is don’t judge anything by your own eyes and mind.

American Apparel

The Natives. The true wearers of American Apparel.

COUNTDOWN 100 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME - From 57-54 PULP FICTION & JAWS


57. Goodfellas
56. Jaws - I think I saw this one a long long time ago. And I remember developing a phobia for water (and the blue ocean) after seeing this - mainly because of the lurking possibilities of danger in the blue/green deep of sea. I shall not linger here to write a review on this film. I didn’t find it extremely fascinating. I was just too young to remember.
55. The Graduate 
54. Pulp Fiction 
Now this one, I saw recently. 
I remember thinking to myself how very much like real life Quentin Tarantino’s films always feel. Maybe it is something to do with the pace and the sound. For the lack of drama in his music and camera work, Tarantino makes up by putting exaggerated drama in story line and action sequences. But even then they are ridiculously believable.
Pulp Fiction is filled with exaggerated characters going about in their different disconnected businesses that get somehow bizarrely connected.
IMDB: The film initiates with two small-time thieves, Honey Bunny and Pumpkin, who spontaneously decide to hold up a restaurant. The film then shifts to the story of Jules and Vincent, who hit men for the well known and feared Marsellus Wallace, who is caught up in a deal gone wrong with struggling boxer Butch Coolidge.
The title gives it away. It is pulp: nothing serious. It is fiction: fake unreal, a lie. 
The acting is simply awesome. They all look very effortlessly done, as though they were real people and not Bruce Willis or Samuel Jackson or John Travolta. 
My favourite scene is the scene where Uma Thurman and John Travolta are doing a tango. Classic. Only Tarantino can make such a scene as classic as it was. 
I saw Inglourious Basterds when it came out and was fascinated by the attitude that the director radiated in his work. So I downloaded the whole Kill Bill series and completely enjoyed it (because I never bothered to watch them when they showed in MGM on TV. Movies on TV are boring, man!). And then I was hooked to all things Tarantino. And so I fished out Pulp Fiction from the big murky cinema pond.
My last watched Tarantino film was Reservior Dogs. Reeks of attitude. Loved it.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Film Review - Aisha, 2010



AISHA - 2010
The reason I decided to see this, though I had other options, was because Sonam Kapoor was in it. This movie was produced by her father, Anil Kapoor, a big actor once upon a time. You might say this movie is a massive PR popularity stint by the Kapoor family to celebrate the star-ness of their daughter Sonam. 
But that aside, as it turns out, I sat through the whole movie and even quite enjoyed it. This film ticked off some of the reasons for which Bollywood films always never seemed serious or atleast unappealing to me. Here are a few:
• Pretentious Morality - Every movie that gets pumped out of Bombay reeks with morality. Every movie needs to have underlying morals it seems. After all, isn’t India a nation brimming with religiosity? 
This is why I find Indian cinema hard to swallow whole-heartedly. There’s always a ‘love always win’ or ‘Good triumphs over evil’ or ‘love and honour your family’ and all that niceties.
Aisha isn’t pretentious in that way. Yes, it is extremely pretentious in that it shows rich high class families and doesn’t bat an eye to the oppressed and the downtrodden people of India. It shows the characters just as they are, and does no effort to portray them in soft glowy preachy-we-are-good-people-too lights.
• Distasteful fashion - Aisha had good fashion in it. It wasn’t perfect fashion. I mean, what is fashion but subjectivity and opinion? But too many times in Indian cinema, fashion turns out more hideous that aesthetic. I had in fact come to believe that Indian women look only in Indian traditional clothing. But this movie proves me wrong. Sonam Kapoor and her sidekicks look good. Abhay Doel looks good, sometimes wears good shoes too. If you look at the poster above, you see that they all look pretty and dapper.
Neat and clean and dapper has never, in my memory, featured in Indian cimena (except one or two instances designed by Sabyasachi Mukherjee , to be fair). So, though it wasn’t near perfect, Aisha was a great relief.
• Camera Work - Here was good camera work done. I believe that camera work in a film should never attract attention to itself. To me when I have watched a movie and have not mentally commented on the camera movement I consider it well done. Good camera work (unless intended otherwise for specific reasons as in Bourne trilogy) should make the audience feel at one with what he/she is seeing and only if necessary heighten the sensation by movement. Watching Aisha I don’t remember ever thinking for once about the camera. Which I suppose had done what it was meant to. 
• Noisy Music - For once, here was a Bollywood film where you are spared of clamour too evident to Indian cinema. The dance sequence were hardly dance sequences. More like background scores.
• Acting - Sonam Kapoor was the sole heroine of this film. There was no hiding it. And I thought she did a fantastic job upholding that little shaky space of limelight. Her character was extremely believable. She had the naughty brat daughter tone to her voice, which rather sounded annoying, but thank God, that isn’t her original tone. Sonam, laughing and crying and being annoyed and being silly were all believable. The other actors were pretty much non-existent. Abhay Doel made sure he looked good through out.
So, overall, that is it. Aisha.

Friday, April 1, 2011

They Will Overcome

My dad is a Pastor at Shillong Baptist Church, and sometimes he sends me his messages that he has prepared so I can edit them and correct his grammar and sentence structuring (and all that..). Here is a paragraph I stole from his preparation for tomorrow:

Last week some of the Tyrannus boys and I went for an exposure trip to Agra and Vanarasi, we attended one EU camp where there were a number of new believers. We met a young man from Nepal, who was from a royal family studying engineering in Banaras Hindu University. He had just become a Christian and he clearly knew the consequences of it, but he is committed to follow Jesus - no matter what. There was also another girl from Bihar who was studying fine arts who said that she will be disowned by her parents if they come to know that she has become a Christian, but she is determined to follow Jesus. There was yet another young man from Assam who is faithfully following Jesus, he also told me that his parents will stop supporting him the day they come to know that he is a Christian. He told me that he wants to take baptism and become a member of SBC.
I have invited him to visit SBC and also meet CBCNEI people in Guwahati when he comes home during summer vacation.

It is a big question whether SBC or any one of us would be able to extend any help to such new believers. They are genuine in their commitment, even at the risk of losing their career, their family members and their future, all for the sake of following Jesus. What can you and I do for people like them?

They are facing lots of difficulty because of their faith in Jesus; humanly speaking their lives are in danger. But I have told them, and I want to tell you also that they are going to be the winners- never will be losers.

They will overcome - because of Jesus.

Film Review - Dum Maro Dum 2011

Literally it means: दम मारो दम, "Puff, take a puff!"

This new project borrows its name heavily inexcusably and bashlessly from the classic Bollywood song of the same name from the movie Hare Rama Hare Krishna.

That's not why it is unforgiveable. I know films have borrowed names from past works and have done a good job at that. For example:
Inglourious Basterds that Quentin Tarantino borrowed from Inglorious Bastards, also a war movie set in the Second World War.
Om Shanti Om that Farah Khan borrowed from a Kishore Kumar song. Here too, Farah Khan, being a choreographer previously before a director, makes good use of her skills and make this movie an unpretentious celebration of Bollywood music, dance and drama.
So let it be clear that I am not against ripping names off and using the popularity of its original as a selling point. In fact sometimes it can be smart.

What I am pissed about is this:
You don't, you never rip off a classic material, that everyone knows by name, and attempt to make a film of it, and then use this crap of a design like this to sell it.

This poster/promotional art has tainted my otherwise near perfect sepia tinted impression of Dum Maro Dum.

What I am saying is, show some respect. Show some respect for art. For good things. Don't stuff it in the instant cool/marketable/mainstream/popular bag by degrading its artness. 


Well, first, I am clear that preference in art/design/aesthetics is purely personal. The fact that I don't like this poster doesn't mean the designer is bad, or he is inefficient. I just don't like it. Especially because you're tampering with classic material, thats meant to be timeless. This just doesn't do justice.

This photo is the scene where the song Dum Maro Dum was originally shot at:
Dev Anand and Zeenat Aman somewhere in Kathmandu where everyone is taking rounds smoking to their own bliss.

The film (the new one) comes out April 2011. I am looking forward to seeing it. I know it will be a brainless display of sweaty abs, dizzying shot editing and noise, but I am curious to see what they do with the big name they have borrowed.