Thursday, July 22, 2010

Even small fish in small ponds have to swim fast

The past few days (and next few more) have been a flurry of activities and also thoughts about activities. I love my life like this. No time to breathe or think. But I think it's time I put sleep back on the priority list. The lack of it does me no good in Entrepreneurial Development class.

One sigh of relief can be breathed: the 'Fresher's Party' is over and successful (my definition: people participated, got entertained and were fed. Oh we were within budget! I'm not such a hopeless accountant after all). The song went fine and in the video, I don't look as clowny as I thought I did and don't sound toooo terribly awful, if I say so myself. My first duty as Class Rep is done and all thanks to improvisations and makeshift arrangements by my fellow, er, fellows. A big shout out to all 26 of you. I really love you all.

Next. Very enthusiastically, my hand shot up in the air last week for more assignments than I remember. So, tomorrow I will be doing a presentation on US dominance and Revolution in Military Affairs. And though I'm having to sort through a MOUNTAIN of information, I'm actually enjoying it. I always did like talk of power. Word of the day: psychotechnology.
As if that weren't enough, my thirst for movies doesn't abate during times of hecticness. Watched 'A Serious Man' last night. At first, my reaction was of extreme discomfort (I loved the beginning bit with the Polish couple and the dybukk) because I dislike watching central characters have their lives fall apart as they watch on helpless (personal fears about lack of assertiveness, maybe?) I began to appreciate the story's progression, the dark humour (especially the Rabbis) and just when I got hooked back into the film, the end completely repulsed me. I guess I'm still looking for the next 'Inception' (it's been less than a week; must be patient) to blow me away.
Yeah, so I'm going to see 'Udaan' today. An Anurag Kashyap production, it's earning rave reviews. Bunny wants to see it bad. And well, it's a coming of age story. But hello! All coming of age stories are about boys. The only one that I've seen featuring a female lead was 'Thirteen'. And I didn't come of age that way so erm, not so relateable. Guess I'm going to have to make my own ode to the girls of Generation X. Before we grow so old that I forget.

And also! It's Jhinker's birthday tomorrow (we're one month apart) and I have to do something special. Instead, I was highly crabby (had a sore throat and sleep deprivation) with her on the phone last night and I feel horrible about it. God, please make me a better human being. Atleast for tomorrow.

And lastly, the picture above is dedicated to all the illustrious members of the Therapy playlist on my iTunes. In particular, Bif Naked ('Rich and Filthy'), Scissor Sisters ('Take Your Mama Out'), Coldplay ('Life in Technicolour II'), The Belle Stars ('Iko Iko' from 'The Hangover' soundtrack), good old JT ('LoveStoned/I Think She Knows') and of course, Beck ('Loser' and for just being Beck).

Because you get me through. Because you make me happy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Raavan/Raavanan: Life after expectation

Raavan and Raavanan have released and almost left the theatres. As I have mentioned earlier, I had been waiting and waiting (AND WAITING) for this epic movie to be released for numerous reasons:
1. It's a reinterpretation of the Ramayan, my preferred choice of the great Indian epic.
2. It brings to the forefront the intriguing character of Raavan, the good bad guy
3. It's about the possibility of love between Raavan and Sita (ah, forbidden love! DO NOT mention anything about Stockholm syndrome)
4. Abhishek Bachchan as a half maniacal, half brooding Raavan. Exciting. Oh yeah, and Vikram as Raavanan.
5. A. R.Rahman's music.
6. Santhosh Sivan cinematography of misty Karnataka forests and waterfalls
7. Mani Ratnam: the director

Well, I went and actually bought the audio CD and feverishly absorbed all that my eyes and ears could find of this bilingual film. I jumped at the opportunity when my equally excited cinematographer friend scored us some tickets with a big bunch going to a charity show which was a sort of public but not so public premiere. I was going to see Raavan before anybody else! (the Bachchans don't count)

I settled down in the second row from the screen, corner seat, absolutely silent, wanting to absorb this movie to my bones. I have certain movie-watching quirks. 1. I cannot miss the beginning of any movie, no matter how sad, whether it's 'White Chicks' or a Karan Johar movie. Whether I know what happens or not. If I miss a minute, I feel heartbroken. If I miss it on TV, I can't even watch it. 2. I kinda know whether I'm going to like a movie within the first minute or so.

And that's when my illusions started to dissolve, little by little. The beginning of Raavan is a montage of scenes, my favourite being the one where Abhishek Bachchan plays the dhol. Music and percussion-based folk music speaks strongly to me and I suppose this scene was meant to be indicative of Raavan's multiple facets. It was also supposed to hint at his power. But I didn't feel it, you know what I mean?

Next. 'Beera', the power song, which exalts and extols the great Beera, unique and formidable. Maybe we get to see Beera in action, the saviour of the downtrodden, the enemy to the elite? No. The song is wasted as an accompanying track to the opening credits.
The story begins too soon, too abruptly. The characters are half-sketched and their dialogue so un Mani Ratnam like, neither clever nor touching. The saddest is Govinda's character being reduced to an amusing forest officer whose purpose in the entire movie is nothing more than serving as an allusion to the actual Hanuman.

Anyway, I watched on, a little biased because it's hard to give up something you love so much.

Other sore points:
'Behene De', my former addiction came too soon and flowed away, just like its name.
Chemistry between AB Jr and his wife was hardly anything to qualify this movie for being of the romance genre.
Raavan did not come across as a powerful godfather and neither did there exist any ideological face off between him and Ram.
Ram, played by Vikram is basically a rotten guy without any redeeming features. Raavan is a psychotic, indecisive, torturing angel seeking revenge for a gory outrage but doesn't even carry it out?

Atleast one thing was that AB Jr danced well in 'Thok de Kili'. Maybe he just looks like the right Raavan with scruffy beard and long lean frame. The black shawl becomes him but the character's interpretation unfortunately does not. I feel so bad for the Abhishek of 'Guru'.

So, I was disappointed but not disgusted. My stubborn bias remained. Then, almost a month later, I saw 'Raavanan'. Much as Hindi is mostly my second language and I couldn't really follow the rural slang of the Tamil version, I was absolutely blown away.

Maybe it's because it's Mani Ratnam's first language. Maybe it was the editing that was better. But it definitely was Vikram. The man didn't act, he brought life to the two dimensional paper cutout that Raavan is reduced to at Ramlila and other occasions. Maybe he didn't portray the ten headed aspect that Raavan is meant to have but it was much easier to deal with that AB Jr's split personalities. Raavanan is a man tortured, his emotions evident but understated, his love and attraction clearly coming forth but exquisitely restrained through blunt speech. He is an unbelievable actor, absolutely lovable and cool and rugged and totally messed up in absolutely the perfect way. I'm sorry that I hadn't expected more from Raavanan. The dialogue, particularly to the end, is a lot more beautiful and poetic in Tamil.

The chemistry between Vikram and Mrs. Rai Bachchan is explosive, surprisingly. The love story is simply gorgeous but ridiculously unexplored. Maybe the whole point was to not change the story of Ramayan but to make ourselves question what could have been.

The crux of the film is the dilemna of good verus evil, the question of the grey areas. But it falls flat by describing our so called hero as outright evil and the anti hero as a sort of martyr for emotions. So, I stand, a little disappointed but a lot relieved about the fact that I was pleasantly surprised in atleast some aspects. But nevertheless, I will not cease to expect more from Mani Ratnam.

Take me, I'm your leader

Mass conspiracies are doomed to backfire. Why? The masses seldom cooperate so uniformly that the master plan comes into effect. Case in point: my unexpected election as class representative of what could be my final year in school.
The plan was thus: force the two least school spirited candidates into authority, a role that no one else wanted. This is where collaboration worked. We cheered and with a show of hands deemed our two saviours the class rep and assistant class rep. I was part of this spectacle, I must admit. I even suggested an unofficial swearing-in ceremony. This event did not take place but had it taken place, things might have been different.
Little did I realise that a reverse coup was in the formative stage. The official Union reps came around to conduct the election and our candidate for assistant class rep quietly backed out. I had ready objections in place but they were drowned out by the former regime's insistence in my capabilities. Silenced by the former president (whom I respect immensely), I prepared to engineer a little revolt. I encouraged vote manipulation around me. But nevertheless, it failed. I am thus, the new class rep.

Perhaps in my heart I still felt loyal to my old college. Protective of my identity as a graduate of the supposed # 1 college in India, protective of the seemingly less restrictive student life I enjoyed then, possessive of the 'coolest' course I could find in Madras city. I don't know. I had been feeling reluctant to let go, despite it being a year since graduation.

Today was the investiture ceremony. My new college takes these things seriously. Class reps get a badge (at my previous college, all you got was a million responsibilities such as organising major media events, loss of sleep and perhaps some clout with the heavyweight that is the Union). My co-rep and I chuckled to ourselves about our own cluelessness (we had missed the class rep orientation and quite a few other announcements) but were kindly guided to our seats and roles by the responsible others. It's going okay.

I'm not a bad class rep. I love running up and down the stairs to pass on messages. It's a welcome distraction. I always did stand up on the chair to fix the projector screen (seeing as I'm the tallest in class). I cart around equipment. I get photocopies. My own notes get photocopied. And it's not like I have to do all that much. The previous rep is incredibly helpful and so is my assistant. The profs are great. The class is supportive and I'm growing to love each one of these girls. They are so my type. Girls but so ungirly, which was one thing I'd dreaded leaving a mostly all-boys college. Most of all, this is the first time I've encountered such a large bunch of class clowns in one year.

I may not learn the words to the college song (sung every Tuesday) but I can pretend to mouth them. I still resolutely refuse to wear sari (which most proud students do at any given occasion) but I can oblige with a dupatta over my kurta and jeans. (Oh wait, scratch that. It's way too hot).I think the point of this whole unexpected duty was to create a bond between the college and I.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Besant Nagar Bond-age

I am a small-time adventurer. My favourite pastime may be making destination lists with my college benchmates (who squint at me for adding Mongolia to the list). I collect pictures of Tunisia's blue and white architecture. I dwell in Oran/Marseille through my ears. I envision Thai beaches ever so often, especially after viewing and listening to Laya Project.
But since I AS OF NOW bound by time, space, resource and societal constrictions, I make a break for it whenever and however I can. Owing to limited travel opportunities, I tended to crave for a more accessible utopia. I found this in the form of Besant Nagar and its beach.
For non-Chennaiites, Besant Nagar is a posh, sea-bordering area in the South of Chennai. Its beach is clean (thanks to several initiatives such as ROB-Reclaim Our Beaches), it has restaurants a plenty and it is somehow so much more tempting and happening and inviting than dear old Marina. Sorry, Marina. Maybe it's just 'cause you're too familiar.
During the week, I had begun this ruse of scaring my mother by threatening to drive off to Besant Nagar while in the midst of errands. I was in desperate need of a long drive, now that I have reconciled to the fact that if I want my long drive I must do it myself. I was so in the mood and this less-explored destination was calling out to me. Little did I know how these teasing words of mine would cause life itself to play a little trick on me...
Saturday was declared Besant Nagar day. A friend was to perform in a concert at hip venue known as Spaces, bang opposite the beach. Benchmates designated me as the driver of the evening and a plan was quickly formed. A plan surprisingly long overdue seeing as we've never hung out besides going straight somewhere before or after college.
Friday came. Bored and restless, I kidnapped Jhinks and Mum and we set off somewhere, anywhere. Guess where we headed? Down the Marina beach road, past the fishermen's nets, random goats (so many goats), annoying number of speedbreakers and numerous rowdy drivers. And we ended up guess where? We also ate at this pirate-themed restaurant.
Saturday. Long drive. First time to Besant Nagar in the daytime. We waited till our friend finished performing and ran across to the beach, me literally running like the world was after me, sand sinking under my black Converse style shoes, legs leaping, feeling so free, while 'Free fallin' by John Mayer played on my phone in my pocket.
Sunday. Mothers' cool friends, Jhinks and I. Total ladies evening. We went shopping to Madras Terrace House, this uber-cool kitschy Madras culture type boutique/cafe/art exhibition centre. We're a philosophical bunch, ever ready to toast to newness and rebirth and we were high on that feeling. Guess where I took us? This time we actually sat on the beach wall. They ate kulfi, Jhinks and I talked about boys and girls and unbeachy, unliberating things so much in contrast to the salt-soaked air. The crowd was immense but somehow I didn't mind. But I felt restless. Tired. Feet aching though all I'd been doing was alternating foot from pedal to pedal. I wanted to close my eyes. I guess my saturation had taken place.Getting back to the North was all I wanted to do.
I will go back. I will run more on the beach and I will play frisbee or shoot balloons or fly a kite (oh wait that's no longer allowed). But I will no longer yearn to do so.
And for that freedom from yearning that I am eternally grateful to the universal forces that conspire around me.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Familiar Stranger

There is something to be said about learning to tolerate your own company. I'm one of those not sooo social people (oft called self-absorbed by PEOPLE WHO DON'T KNOW WHAT THE TERM MEANS. You know who you are, K). I guess you could say being an only child I'm not so influenced or dependent on other people for entertainment. Of course, as with everything else I've learnt in 22 years, life makes you contradict yourself. Repeatedly. Case in point: I tend to avoid clubs/pubs/excessive smoke-filled and claustrophobic spaces. My idea of socialising involves a long drive, conversation and excessive laughter. But 3 days after my birthday? I found myself totally sober, dancing like a maniac (I LOVE to dance) with my undergrad buddies in a packed disco. My eyes closed, an imaginary spotlight on my head and a sense of absolute abandonment. Innocent, spontaneous fun. Of course, Sean Kingston helped.

So, when I used to say I love being alone and self-sufficient, it was ironic because secretly I envied huge families especially those with many siblings ( I always always wanted a big brother and my dream came true in the form of this amaaaazzziiing human being whom I call Bunny. The fact that he now has a girlfriend, Sunshine whom I absolutely adore makes my own constructed family picture complete) I basically came to the conclusion that you shouldn't say you hate something or someone because you will end up doing exactly that with exactly them. Life is unpredictable and beautifully so.

Well, anyway, recently I was put to the test. I have become addicted to human company thanks to my delightfully demanding friends. I felt as if I would drown in my own thoughts if left alone for a second. But I was put in a situation where my friends all went home and I was supposed to wait for my Mum at a certain shop. Sleep-deprived and wandering mind, it was just me and my car in a parking lot.

The thoughts came, like arrows from different directions but I stayed put. My music was in my ears, soothing me into the semi-conscious delirium that I know so well. But my mind was still awake, valiant against the onslaught of self-doubt, unfulfilled yesterdays and uncertain tomorrows. The window was down, I was alone ( a girl!) in an unknown place. But I didn't care.

Khaled's voice soared like the only way Khaled's ('Hada Raykoum') voice can. I listened. I focused on the outlines of an olive green plant reaching toward the bland, colourless sky. I focused on that sky, so unyielding, impenetrable, that mute witness. I fell asleep, arms folded, seat kicked back, regardless of the world.

In between the contradictions, in betweent the extremities, I meet myself, an ever-changing familiar stranger. Someone I don't know very well and I don't think I'll ever know. Someone I can fall in love with intensely and immensely and someone I could completely abandon if I found someone else.

And after years of pushing and pulling, struggles beneath the skin, I have finally encountered someone I can tolerate. Someone I can live with.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Digression Session

As usual, my utterly brilliant thoughts and philosophies drift through the windows of my mind in the five seconds before sleep or the five seconds before the red light changes to green.
It's not that I have become uncreative or suffer from lack of information. My academic pursuits stress on newspaper reading (even if, currently that is restricted to reading Klose's statement about Villa or the latest Sudhish Kamath movie review-always an addiction) and more. I suppose the inner rebel in me baulks at any compulsory reading right now. (this phase probably explains why I end up reading sodium content on the back of Hippo Chips packets and why EAT HIPPO, NO FIGHT. All this and I don't even eat or like chips.)

Bad, bad attitude since that's most certainly not gonna help me through the last and maybe final year of school. Ever.

In all seriousness, I did read a really really good book recently. Less of a book, more of a reliving. It was Wangari Maathai's 'Unbowed', and it has like a lot of other autobiographies, become an inspiration to me. Her immense strength of character and unyielding spirit that enabled her to take on the entire Kenyan government is amazing to read about. Makes me think about how insignificant my own inner ghosts are and how much easier to override. Such a long, long way to go.

Anyway, I digress (just read an email forward on age-related attention deficit disorder which sounded disturbingly familiar). The purpose of this post is to reminisce about my fruitful youth. Ah, the days of totally incomprehensible physics classes where I would sit in the backbench, sketching storyboards and scribbling 'movie' scripts, writing songs for 'musicals' starring my own imaginary star cast (this is the origin of Kingdom of Estarra. More on that later). This was the creative explosion. Years of guitar classes, nights of songwriting (my guitar, Dominic still bears the pen marks), 2 am story inspirations. (I actually miss school days where I could hate the subject and thus, rebel in my own geeky way. What I've been studying since have been purely my decisions and hence I have no choice but to like it. Aargh, the tragedy of getting what you want in life...)

In college, I got lazy. My friends and their lives were highly inspiring in terms of story fodder but I somehow couldn't translate that into fictitional material. What a waste. My only expression was when first-year-college-turbulence showed up in the form of poetry. And that remains my saving grace when it comes to writing even now. Scribbles on the back of my Entrepreneurial Development or Globalisation notebooks (but never EVER during Ethnicity, Culture and IR) . Poetic license abused to the nth point. Romantic, free-flowing verse inspired by the evening (usually cloudy) sky, the fluorescent green, erm, greenery outside. No John Mayer lyrics coming to mind, nothing interesting to sketch. Twenty boring minutes to the bell.

The point of this rambling (yes, there is one!) is an official declaration of my commitment to writerhood. No, not as a recreational activity on this blog during internship (blogging has always been a staple feature of all my internships since they have all been desk-bound) This is the statement: I'm going back to my creativity-fueled fourteen year old self (and only THAT aspect of my fourteen year old self) because creation is the only proof of existence. Truly. And thought-generation doesn't really count. What's the use of these great, fabulous ( I'm assuming) thoughts if they're withering away in the recesses of my mind?

And by writing, I mean consistency. Not this two voluble blog posts in one night thing. Steadfastedness. Regimenal. Creative cardio.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Talk to me!

I recently learnt that I have absolutely SO MUCH to say. My dear friend Jhinks tells me "Talk to me. I want to know about YOU" (and this is saying something. We've been really really close friends for the past 12 years). But by the time I get to the phone, it's silence on my end. I simply recycle old conversations, old pre-concluded ideas. What am I afraid of? Not making sense? Improper sentence construction? Bombing on the punch line?
So that's when I started to realise. That I'm most comfortable with a pen in my hand, a keypad beneath my fingers or a keyboard staring invitingly up at me. But that's not good. I love people. I love the energy that is diffused in the process of human conversation. Hands waving, eyes lighting up, sharing of ideas, using words, words, words. I love words. I know words. The written word is my weapon and unfortunately also my crutch.
During my internship, I met the most fabulous people. People who truly communicate, both with soul and word. My work guide (the coolest mentor in the world, I absolutely adore her) is one person who astounds me with her sheer gift of communicating exactly what I've been feeling for ages. When she talks about world music ('music of the world' as she says, is a better term), I can't help but simply bob my head up and down, eyes round with excitement because I'm in absolute agreement with what she says. The people here are honest and spontaneous. I've never felt so refreshed in a conversation.

I wondered what made me switch to listener mode. Is it my role as love counsellor? Is it my fear of appearing ignorant? The only person who I am the biggest chatterbox is with my mother. And with her, I'm exactly whom I find it difficult to be with: a self-absorbed, non-listening, dominating monologuist (is there a word?) But even then, I am not completely honest. The mental screening still takes place. The opaque bubble is soundproof.Fear of judgement, fear of appearing weak or flawed. Fear of trusting? Fear of revelation, of being exposed to reveal less than I believe I am composed of.

Ah, the futility of fear.

Enough! Conclusion: I'm going to practise the art of conversation. And that means not keeping my phone on silent, not shutting up when group members exceed beyond 2 and basically.....

being myself. The most cliched and yet the most fundamental aspect of being human.