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Showing posts from 2009

injured

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I have a story in the Tehelka fiction issue on the stands now - in case anyone feels like reading.It has 12 stories all around the theme of injury. It can be read   here - but it's always nice to actually buy and read the 12 stories at leisure, in trains, in the loo or on the verandah or in bed or wherever you do these private things.

Open Review: Sagira Begum

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I've been doing reviews of documentaries for the website of Open magazine occasionally. Her e is a review of a film I really love - Sagira Begum, by my friend Sameera Jain. More reviews either by myself or Sanjay Kak are here.

who so hunts to list

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"If you interact with things in your life, everything is constantly changing. And if nothing changes, you're an idiot. " So says Umberto Eco in this interesting interview about how lists are the stuff of culture . (Nice decor huh?) I remember sitting, rather hungover, with a musician friend at Sea View in the early morning, and feeling a ching of recognition through the haze as he said this thing that a lot of Indian traditional culture is made up of lists - a list of kisses (Kama Sutra), a list of the types of relationships there can be between lovers (Gita Govinda - I think he said), and so on. The idea of an EDL, a film's edit, as a list of images perhaps comes very close to this idea and reminds us, to make that list with care. In every day life my propensity for lists has been talked about earlier, here. I often feel that if I make the list in the wrong order I never get through it and if I make it the right way then it orders my day. Perhaps that's

The Lost Bits

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If my dad were alive today he'd be irritated with me - always waiting till the 11th hour! he'd expostulate - why can't you do things on time? If you had to write me a birthday post why wait till the last hour of my birthday? And I'd be saying - but Papu I had to do that other thing - and I scanned the picture earlier and.. And he'd say - always excuses, dash it! Koi system nahin hai! And I'd say - that's not true! System hai. And it is being done before your birthday is over na! And he'd say - don't teach your grandmother how to suck eggs. And I'd feel like laughing but wouldn't dare. Every year on my dad's birthday I miss him more than other days - that's natural. But I feel it more - or differently - when it's the Sunday before his birthday and I see the horoscopes for those whose birthday falls in the coming week. It's a reminder that there isn't something to look forward to. I think about reading the paragraph

festival seasons from other worlds

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Perhaps the government's inimitable way of reminding filmmakers that you can't have your torte and eat it too (no matter what the signs say) (and not to be confused with tort ). It's art or commerce baby; success or goodness. Unless of course you go to another kind of festival altogether and get some special boons

Electric Plug

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Electric Feather, an anthology of contemporary Indian erotica finally launched last week. It's been a while in the coming (the best things in life take their time). And since the last public erotic feather was in Mughal-e-Azam, I'd say about damn time! I have a story in it and I'm suddenly wondering how people will respond. When I give the book to someone, sometimes I want to take it back. Not because I have any issues writing about sex. In fact I was more or less willing to read a rather explicit passage in my story which features a starfish simile I'm kinda proud of. But suddenly I'm coming to realise how few freely admit to fantasy and pleasure, how many are a bit squirmy about it and also, I begin to wonder how does this squirminess play out in one's more formal, professional relationships? I'm wondering if people will read, maybe even like, but hesitate to say anything because of their sense of propriety or privacy or prudishness - or need to wrin

What is Time?

I am going away for a few days. Dutifully I tell my fellow scrabble addicted friends on facebook. Where you going? One asks. Goa. Oh! Socegad! She says. Don’t be so stereotyping I say. Besides, I’m going for work. I am in Goa for a workshop. But I also have a big deadline I need email to help me reach. The hotel is supposed to provide internet to the workshop office. A few times a day I go I go up and ask hopefully: is there internet? I get resigned looks. Wait they say, it’s coming the hotel people said. I also sit down, and get that hanging about haplessly body language. A hotel employee comes up. Internet is not working aan? No. He walks around looking intent, but gingerly, not touching a switch or cable. He hovers above the router looking at it with the blank concern of a nephew who is visiting an aunt he has never heard of before under duress and is actually thinking of the cricket match while he waits for the visit to end. Ok, he says and leaves, never to return. Desperate

here's looking at you kid

If ever a writer had a drawl it is Mohammad Hanif. Whether it was the utterly fantastic, bitterly funny A Case of Exploding Mangoes or this piece on moving back to Pakistan, I always see the narrator leaning against the door frame, a cigarette in his mouth, drawling out the lines, the indolence masking the irreverence. Although we've received it more commonly through American pop culture, this dry drawling style does of course exist as a tradition in the sardonic rhythms of parts of South Asia, in the erudite, ironic observations of litterateurs... It is a glamour-evoking fabulousness indeed as styles go. Walking along the Karachi seafront after returning from London, I worked myself into a self-righteous rage at these young women in black burkas hanging out at the beach when they should have been at school or in some mosque praying for our collective salvation. But then I looked closely and found out that many of them were on a date. Some were actually making out, in broad dayl

The Other Bhabhi imparts a moral lesson for all girls

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While Savita bhabhi may not be able to bestow her largesse on the world for the time being, the other bhabhi who is such a shining light in my firmament has returned after a long absence in the papers although I did scour everything for news of her on Sanju bhaiya's 50th birthday. It's not a very specatcular resurfacing, but it is a reliable one. Ah Manyata! If only she had been my bhabhi during the boards I would have topped - even in Maths! If only she had taught me some lessons in youth, I would have avoided many a bitter romantic season instead of haring off here and there to pursue my goals, desires and other icky feminist things- Stand By Your Man! Manyata pushes Sanju to work, work, work Shahanaz my dingbat aunt has taken it upon herself to make me a star wife. It has suddenly become her life’s aim to marry me off to some filmi type so that the both of us can become red carpet regulars, schmoozing with the stars while her kitty gang begs her to get introduc

and then, maybe sex is the revolution

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Porn comic stars don't die they just become speech bubbles I guess. Shor Bazaar, a band from Bombay has written a song about Savita Bhabhi which most have read about but all may not so diligently gone to look for on the day of release as I did. For those of you more gainfully employed than I, my middle name is happy-to-serve - it is HERE Is it great stuff ? Well the comic was punchier and funnier and struck the right ingenuous tone- this song isn't really spark-y and it loses it's opportunity to use the small thing to talk about the big thing, to somehow combine pleasure and comment - but, it's trying at least and it wants to be fun. And it's local produce people. So I'll take it for now.

waiting for a revolution (just a small one yaar)

People often say military rule will straighten everything out. And us liberals always of course fight with them - as we should. But sometimes I feel like imposing military rule only on the entertainment business - because look what it did for Pakistan, man! Thanks to a friend I've been watching a show called Coke Studio - which is a sort of Unplugged or Studio Sessions type show with Pakistani bands/musicians. Some of the stuff is super fabulous and I felt frustrated again that in a country the size of India we rarely have - or come across - anything particularly exciting in the world of pop music. The normal response to that is that film music is our popular music. But I don't know - over time it has, like so much else, become so homegenised that although we hear a few good songs, they are all so similiar. Of course there are exceptions but just look - it's a country of over a billion people and so many languages and seemingly so little. A lot of singers in the film ind

The true meaning of romance

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Love, See us Into a Hall of Mirrors

I have a piece in the Outlook's annual Bollywood special - which I'd love some feedback on. The theme this year is romance. It's called Love, See Us Into a Hall of Mirrors Writing in something like Outlook is a bit scary because you know anyone, anywhere in the country could read it. Or at least it is now - because I wrote a piece last year and at that time I didn't think too much about it. Only after it came out did I realise how many people read Outlook - I mean felt aware of it actually instead of in some abstract corner of my brain. For a couple years I wrote a column for the Mumbai Mirror. Since those were my years of not taking the Times of India I never actually saw the column in print. As a result I wrote it with a peculiar sense of freedom - I had no sense of it being read by all and sundry and so, no fear of the inevitable shame and scorn that I otherwise live in constant dread of. Then I switched papers. Guess what I don't write anymore? Of course th

idhar udhar

I've always been ambivalent about blogging, about it's potential to make people take themselves too seriously, about everything in life becoming peformative, about the silent spaces being taken up by more noise. The generally trivial nature of this blog is a sort of testimony or response to that. Then Karan Bali expertly makes me agree to blog on upperstall. I feel that I must take other people seriously, I struggle to be serious therefore to write sensible things. The resulting contradictions end up paralysing me. I hardly update this blog - three months after going to Mexico not a single picture uploaded yet. I hardly update that one - as I'm often sternly reminded. What to do? I find it hard to run with the hares and hunt with the hounds.

choli ke peechhe kya hai!

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Not exactly a case of saare bandhan todke dekho behnen aati hain but a victory against the forces that stigmatise the traditionally built nevertheless.. the link is too good to camouflage http://www.dailymail.co.uk/ femail/article-1178499/BRA-VO- Victory-women-Mail-M-S-axes- big-bust-surcharge.html Becky didi aage badho, hum tumhare saath hain! Thanks to Nandini R for emailing with this breaking news :)

The Other Song - Vikalp screening @ Alliance

Vikalp is trying out a screening space in collaboration with Alliance Francaise at their auditorium. We're flagging off with a screening of Saba Dewan's new documentary of tawaifs. It's called The Other Song and is at 6.30, Friday, May 15. More details are at: http://screeningspace.blogspot.com/2009/05/vikalp-archive-screening-other-song-by.html Do come and let people know.

just an old recurring irritation

My constantly cool friend Bishakha Datta has interviewed Nisha Susan for Tank magazine. Do read. I was most intrigued by how many progressives made false case against the Pink Chaddi campaign. I wasn' t in the country at the time so at first when I read about it I thought only, right on! But then when I read these spurious articles, I wondered for a second or two. In the end I have to say the secular elites are always trying to maintain their own well-to-do activism and creating a discrimination of classiness and class (conflated in the term "dignified") in which there is no "vulgarity." Why? Don't they know vulgarity means of the people? Sort of anyway. Anger is vulgar, sex is vulgar, wanting more is vulgar. The feminine/feminist is always getting corsetted. No sex, no anger, only beatitude. Do we wonder then that women enthusiastically join up right wing groups which allow them to be angry? Because at least they allow them to be angry against oth

Macbeth: The Sequel - or, Hamari Bahu Maanyata

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From today's Bombay Times, my favourite clever lady keeps writing scene after brilliant scene of her sparkling script. Kindly note: "I love to make a cup of tea for him when he comes home. Or just listen to him tell me about his day. I’ve more of an identity than a lot of women do with their so-called individuality." I want Trishala to come back: Maanyata "If you thought Maanyata Dutt had retired in a sulk and was licking her wounds after being “denied” the opportunity to contest the Lucknowparliamentary constituency election in husband Sanjay Dutt’s place, think again. The spunky woman has put politics out of her mind and is thinking in terms of building up her family instead. “I’m 30, my husband is almost 50, if we don’t have a baby now it will only get more difficult. We’re trying very hard to become parents,” she admitted. “Once I’m a mother I will have no more ambitions left. If this means being in my husband’s shadow, then so be it. I’m happy being Mrs S

Lapsing into Seriousness

So, to not be flippant in these parts for a change... I have an essay in an online magazine called Phalanx which is here I've been kvetching for a long time about how, while there is an increasingly sophisticated discussion about mainstream art and politics, the space to discuss the alternative seems to be amorphous at best. Blogs about books and literature are an exception - to an extent only though. So it's quite nice that there are some initiatives that are serious about this other space - like Pratilipi for example, which has been running a series on the Indian documentary along with various pieces on other arts. After all without a serious, vibrant critical culture, how are we going to make better work?

Arms and the Man (or dinga dinga dinga dinga dee)

Well, when The Man wants to sell Arms he too must advertise - and use all the predictable gender tropes advertisers are accused of, keeping textual analysis academic types in ecstasy for at least a year. I got this in the email from my friend Sanjay Kak, as a Holi greeting. You cannot fault it for not having colour. And read more from those who think it deserves an award .

F-words, F-thoughts

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March 8 is women’s day. I didn’t know this till maybe 1990 when I started working for a documentary filmmaker and through the political activist friends I made in that context, went along to a Women’s Day celebration. I was embarrassed that I didn’t know about it, even though I considered myself a feminist ever since I knew the term. For them all it seemed like such obvious knowledge, 15 August – Independence Day; 2nd October – Gandhi Jayanti, 8 March – International Women’s Day. But how could I have known? It was not a National Holiday as it had been declared say, in Soviet Russia in 1965. It wasn’t common knowledge, a popular event, in the papers like say Nov. 2nd is (Shahrukh Khan’s birthday – you mean you didn’t know?!). I don’t remember it being observed even in my rather feminist English lit. department in Miranda House (I’m sure they considered it frivolous – or maybe they considered us frivolous and didn’t bother to tell us only). Now look what a long way we’ve come baby.

yeh ILU ILU kya hai

So while it snows outside and I drink my espresso at Cup of Joe in Pennington, while my friend has some sort of meeting with other farm moms (don't ask).. this is just the sort of news from home you want. "Just a fortnight ahead of Valentine’s Day, guess, who among the top Indian politicians went romantic. Well, it is railway minister Lalu Prasad, who in his inimitable style, said “I love you” in public. No, it was not his wife Rabri Devi, but one of his innumerable female fan’s who recently expressed her ‘true love’ for the railway minister in the latter’s blog." Of course Laluji hastens to clarify - although he manages to do it without sounding too moralistic. " spirited man that he is, Lalu took the gesture of his fan quite jestfully. “She loves me, I love her,” Lalu conveyed to his fan in English, in front of the TV camera. The spontaneous comment from Lalu left newsmen in peels of laughter, but the railway minister was quick to admonish them saying “that his

in the Mood for Macbeth anyone?

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Manyata Dutt fascinates me. I'm bummed I'll be missing her on that totally, hilariously camp Abu Jani show First Ladies, next week. But I'd love to be a fly on the wall for a couple days in this household. Now that'd be material for another Maqbool..

I GET TO SEE SOME DISSIPATION IN MY PLACE: HITTING 40

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So I finally turned the corner away from possibly young to definitely not and turned 40 on Jan 11. I'd decided long ago that I was going to have a party that lasted all day - and I had all that and more. My friends Samina, Swati and Reshma came from Delhi. My friend Ruchir happened to be here. My mum's in town. My friend Rahul who lives in Goa came for an hour as a surprise. My friend Jabeen whose husband Girish and I share the birthday came too for the first time, since there was lunch and so she had time away from the other commemoration. My uncle who was an avid photographer in his youth and took endless pictures of me as a kid and then lost them, found an old photo, photoshopped it till it looked good as new and gave it to me. My friend Ajay mixed up the dates and so decided to enjoy himself with a weekend in Goa, after promising to make one dish for the party, so we made goa sausages to honour his absence. My friend Madhusree had been claiming that she'd bought one

I want to see some dissipation in my face: Eartha Kitt, R.I.P.

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I first heard Eartha Kitt on All India Radio. Or rather, I only ever heard Eartha Kitt on AIR - on Yuva Vani to be precise, most often her biggest hit Santa Baby (slip a sable under the tree for me). The pre-globalisation nerd's window to western music (before you showed some enterprise of your own)was a handful of programs: in the mornings Play it Cool. In the evenings there was In the Groove. In the nights there was Saturday Date (well A Date with You to be precise) and Forces Requests. Although In the Groove for instance was presented by young people - the cool kids in college had often done some dabbling in this arena - very little of the music was actually contemporary. I imagine it's because the programing was limited by AIR's archive which wasn't exactly up to date. So it is that for structural reasons, our parents' nostalgia had to be our present - isn't that all of India's engagement with popular music for the most? So mostly the music we heard