Monday, December 31, 2007

A lyrical gift

On every New Year’s Eve, I would send a poem to my friends. Poems by Mallarme and Bukowski for bold, creative pals. Poems by Maya Angelou, Anna Akhmatova and Adrienne Rich for the few female friends on my mailing list. Poems by Kabir and Blake for the spiritually inclined. Wallace Stevens or Robert Frost (‘The Road not Taken’) for my boss. And for introducing a neophyte to the magic of poetry - ‘This is just to say’ by William Carlos Williams.

The response was tepid. No one replied. No one wrote in to say they were touched. Perhaps, they felt I was being too pretentious. Perhaps, I was. I stopped mailing poems.

But the habit has stuck and I still feverishly scour poetry books on New Year’s Eve (this is good, since I rarely dip into poetry for the rest of the year).

Right now, I am wading through a lot of stuff by Arthur Rimbaud, the boy genius. Here’s a simple one from his amazing oeuvre.

A Sleeper in the Valley

A green hole where a river sings;
Silver tatters tangling in the grass;
Sun shining down from a proud mountain:
A little valley bubbling with light.

A young soldier sleeps, lips apart, head bare,
Neck bathing in cool blue watercress,
Reclined in the grass beneath the clouds,
Pale in his green bed showered with light.

He sleeps with his feet in the gladiolas.
Smiling like a sick child, he naps:
Nature, cradle him in warmth: he's cold.

Sweet scents don't tickle his nose;
He sleeps in the sun, a hand on his motionless chest,
Two red holes on his right side.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Burton is Back

‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’, the movie version of a hit play by Stephen Sondheim, is going to hit the screens soon and I can’t help but wonder whether Shekhar will jump for joy. It has everything to whet his cinematic appetite: Tim Burton + Johnny Depp + Musical + Victorian Milieu.

I find it interesting for another reason (since I hate musicals) - it seems to be a slasher movie with revenge as its central motif. Blood will be spilt, throats will be slashed and vengeance will be served. Truth be told, I am excited by the promise of such gratuitous violence.

AO Scott gave it a glowing endorsement in the NY Times. The concluding paras of his review:

It may seem strange that I am praising a work of such unremitting savagery. I confess that I’m a little startled myself, but it’s been a long time since a movie gave me nightmares. And the unsettling power of ‘Sweeney Todd’ comes above all from its bracing refusal of any sentimental consolation, from Mr. Burton’s willingness to push the most dreadful implications of Mr. Sondheim’s story to their blackest conclusions.

‘Sweeney Todd’ is a fable about a world from which the possibility of justice has vanished, replaced on one hand by vain and arbitrary power, on the other by a righteous fury that quickly spirals into madness. There may be a suggestion of hopefulness near the end, but you don’t see hope on the screen. What you see is as dark as the grave. What you hear — some of the finest stage music of the past 40 years — is equally infernal, except that you might just as well call it heavenly.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

In all these years, I had seen only two movies directed by Truffaut.

In ‘Soft Skin’ (La peau douce), the married protagonist has a reckless affair with a young air hostess. In the movie’s stunning climax, his wife takes a gun, corners him at a Parisian cafe and shoots him dead.

In ‘The Woman Next Door’ (La femme da cote), the married protagonist has a reckless affair with his neighbour’s wife. In the movie’s stunning climax, this woman takes out a gun and shoots him in the head.

You will therefore understand my trepidation when I rented out Truffaut’s ‘Confidentially Yours’ (Vivement dimanche) from the video store. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

I didn't have to wait till the end.

A man is shot dead in the opening scene. The protagonist’s wife was having an affair with the dead guy.

Some More

My eyes are almost popping out. I am groggy in the mornings. My computer hardware is making an awful racket. But I am not giving up. There are movies and movies to be seen before I go to sleep.

The Sting
Eyes of Laura Mars
Absence of Malice
After the Wedding
Rio Das Mortes
Razor’s Edge
Confidentially yours

Friday, December 14, 2007

Home Theatre

I feel uncomfortable going to film festivals these days. Not for the obvious reasons though. No, the films being screened haven’t plumbed new depths in tackiness. And no, my passion for the medium hasn’t fizzled out. On any given day, I would have rushed out in my lungi and tattered chappals to catch the latest Almodovar retrospective.

Well, not any more.

Because it’s getting too crowded for comfort. Because way too many people are thronging the theatres. Because I feel woozy and claustrophobic in a jam-packed hall, where everyone sits cheek by jowl.

Watching a film is a very intimate experience, like having sex, reading a book or taking a crap. You need privacy, spatial comfort and the right ambience to make it enjoyable. How can you decipher the complex motifs in Lars Von Trier’s latest offering when somebody is breathing on your neck? Or make sense of a Robert Bresson movie when the guy sitting next to you has his knee fused to your thigh? Every time you fidget, you must perform a delicate ballet with your limbs. It’s too distracting.

So lately, I settle for the next best thing. DVDs.

Yesterday, I picked up a dozen films from my local video store for binge viewing (I am back in favour there after returning the DVD of ‘Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi’, after precisely one year). The list is eclectic, nothing high-brow, well, except for the Bergman, and it’s mostly stuff that I have seen ages ago.

El Mariachi
All the President’s Men
Cries and Whispers
The Last King of Scotland
Mons Tresor
Khosla ka Ghosla
A Few Dollars More
Nacho Libre
Knocked Up

Ensconced in a cosy chair, I stretch my legs, light a cigarette, sip from a flask of black coffee and settle for a night of uninterrupted cine-fest. It doesn’t get better than this.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Love song, bollywood style

I was trawling through youtube for some ‘time-pass’ entertainment when I came across a salacious b-grade bollywood song sequence. The bump and grind routine was raunchy enough but the English subtitles proved to be more interesting. Here’s the unabridged version:

Hold me. Touch me. Be mine.
I want to be with you. Yeah!
Put your embrace in my embrace.
Put them. Put them.
Break it. Break it.
This body!
It is burning. It is burning.
A spark burns somewhere.
Come on. Come on.
Extinguish this yearning.
Kiss it. Kiss it.
Kiss my lips with yours.
Let it be. Let it be, this unison!
The yearnings of the heart have started increasing.
My body has started subtle dances.
The intoxication of heart has started deepening.
Let it happen if some mistakes are occurring.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


A little voice disturbs my reverie.
“Did you bring anything for me?”
A reproachful silence.
“Sorry. I was busy. I forgot.”
“Will you buy something now?”
“How about a Cadbury?”
“I don’t want chocolate.”
“What toy?”
“A cow on wheels.”
“A cow?”
“I will try.”
“Next week.”
“It’s not easy to get a cow.”
“If you don’t get a cow, buy a giraffe.”
“Of course.”

Later, my 5 year old niece tells her grandmother, “Sunil uncle is not a nice person. He didn’t even bring me a gift from Chennai.”

All Time Favourite Books

  • Dracula (Bram Stoker)
  • Sophie's Choice (William Styron)
  • Portnoy's Complaint (Philip Roth)
  • Rabbit at Rest (John Updike)
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice (James M Cain)
  • A Farewell to Arms (Ernest Hemingway)
  • Herzog (Saul Bellow)
  • Ham on Rye (Charles Bukowski)
  • The Catcher in the Rye (JD Salinger)
  • The Secret History (Donna Tartt)