Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dil Se

Yesterday being a holiday, one sat around revisiting Bollywood favourites, namely Dil Chahta Hai and Dil Se. As a few friends know, the next best thing to the Chinese Water Torture is to hear one talk (endlessly) about DCH. Hence, in all magnanimity, one has decided to spare you that ordeal.
Dil Se is a totally different matter. What a screwed-up movie. One wishes one was in close proximity to Mani Rathnam when he was shooting the script; one would have promptly kicked his rear end every time he messed up the screenplay.
But then one likes it for a few reasons -- Ladakh in Santhosh Sivan's eyes, Manisha Koirala (yes, yes, one can be irrational) and one scene that loiters in the mind, long after SRK and MK (sound like a pair of monkeys, don't they?) blow themselves up (Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! One always wanted to say that).
This scene is the one where Meghna (MK) comes to meet Amar (SRK) at his office, asking him to get her a job at the All India Radio station in New Delhi. This is right after, as the world knows, Meghna walks into Amar's house in the middle of his engagement with Preeti (Preity Zinta) and he decides to accommodate Meghna and her crony in his house without any questions.
Moving on, there they are, standing in a dimly lit corridor, with people going to and fro. Amar, after having postponed his conflicting feelings, confronts her and asks her why she's there, what she expects from him.
That's when this door at the end of the corridor opens and shuts as people pass through. The camera focusses on Meghna, an eerie light from outside the corridor illuminating her face one second and the door swinging shut, eclipsing her in its shadow the next. This keeps happening, the door opens and shuts. Amar feverishly asks Meghna if she ever had any feelings for him; Meghna's face goes alternately from light to dark as she evades Amar's questions, refusing to answer.
And in that precariously balanced moment, when you feel like thwacking Amar on his head and drilling some sense into his skull, when you want to shriek out and remind him of Preeti and her endearing dimples back home, in that eternally oscillating moment, as Amar's voice pleads, cajoles and threatens Meghna, you understand; you understand the pain of a doomed love, of how the mind questions because it can't do anything else in its desperation when the heart has already lost; you understand how Amar will not learn the truth about Meghna until it's too late; you understand how it feels to be trapped in the temptations of twilight.
Finally, when Amar gives in to Meghna's evasion and accedes to getting her a job, one can only curse and shake one's head in disbelief.
What a screwed-up movie.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

India Vs England, 2nd ODI, Bristol, 2007-2008

  • England's bowling looks healthy even without Harmison and Hoggard. Anderson appears to have sorted out his rhythm problems and is carrying on his fine form from the Tests. I particularly liked the way he bowled at the death; yorkers and slower balls, disguised between just-off-a-length deliveries. Stuart Broad seems to have a good head on his shoulders; he just needs a little more experience. Tremlett had a bad game yesterday but I like what I've seen of him so far -- hard-working and sincere. And what can one say about Flintoff? Even on a pitch like yesterday's, even on a ground like Bristol, it was tough to get him away. If he continues to bowl like this and stays clear of injury, he's all set to become one of the finest defensive fast-bowlers ever of this generation. Though one Mr. Mcgrath would have something to say about that, I imagine.
  • There is a warm feeling that I get whenever I see the Ganguly-Tendulkar pair in full steam in a ODI. There's something about the way they build partnerships that makes me want to believe in marriage. They seemed to be very conscious of the run-out at Southampton and were keen to not repeat it. Tendulkar seemed to sense that Ganguly was having a bad day and took on the responsibility of scoring. What was nice about Sachin's 99 yesterday was the way his feet moved -- swift, twinkling and purposeful, like a samurai; made all the difference. Two paddles for four off Mascarenhas had me grinning. And did you notice those bat-twirls? Looked very deliberate.
  • The most significant statistics, for me, were -- Flintoff 10-0-56-5 & Powar 10-0-43-1. I personally thought Powar would be taken to the cleaners, but looks like he came good. Powar comes across as very gritty, but I don't think he'll last long in this side. Dravid is just looking out for a younger, fitter off-spinner to come along.
  • Dravid's 92 will go down in my memory as one of the finest ODI innings I've seen by an Indian batsman in recent times. I'm not taking anything away from Sachin; he was very good and showed that he still has it in him to go back to his old ways, if he wants to. But Dravid was imperious, like a tall, Mathematics professor, strutting about, expounding on geometry; his batting was all subdued straight lines and acute angles that frustrated Collingwood's field placements. And he kept running his runs all through. He drilled his drives, flicked fine for fours and in one memorable moment, splayed his legs, made room and sliced one over the point boundary for six. You could see that he knew India needed more runs, that he preferred a 340 over a 320. In the end those runs of his seemed to make all the difference. One other shot that stood out was how, having moved to leg and seen the ball pushed wide on the off, he loosened the bootom bottom hand, and played a left-handed backhand slice to sneak the ball past short third-man for four. Simply brilliant. The next time someone accuses him of being slow, they're going to get it in the face.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ode to bicycles - Pablo Neruda

Another day, another favourite.


Ode to bicycles

I was walking
a sizzling road:
the sun popped like
a field of blazing maize,
was hot,
an infinite circle
with an empty
blue sky overhead.

A few bicycles
me by,
the only
that dry
moment of summer,
barely stirred
the air.

Workers and girls
were riding to their
their eyes
to summer,
their heads to the sky,
sitting on the
beetle backs
of the whirling
that whirred
as they rode by
bridges, rosebushes, brambles
and midday.

I thought about evening when
the boys
wash up,
sing, eat, raise
a cup
of wine
in honor
of love
and life,
and waiting
at the door,
the bicycle,
only moving
does it have a soul,
and fallen there
it isn't
a translucent insect
through summer
a cold
that will return to
when it's needed,
when it's light,
that is,
of each day.

I tend to read a lot of Pablo Neruda simply because I locate his sensibility at the opposite end of the spectrum when compared with someone like Auden. Where Auden is flighty, form-perfect, obscure and intellectual, Neruda is rustic, free-flowing, grounded in reality and direct. It is precisely for this, this difference in perspective and approach to poetry, that I like Neruda. His poems inform my intelligence and mould my imagination in a totally different way than I'm used to.
Ode to bicycles is one of a collection from the 'Third book of odes' which includes, among others, another favourite called Ode to a Village Movie Theater.
Ode to bicycles starts with a few compact lines setting the scene up. I like how, in the first stanza, Neruda immediately creates an expansive feeling of oppressive afternoon heat so much so that you can almost feel yourself squinting your eyes. The usage of the verbs -- 'sizzling', 'popped' and 'blazing' -- is perfect simply because a) they suit their objects wonderfully: 'sizzling road', 'popping sun' and 'blazing maize', and b) these verbs are made to work a lot; they are physical verbs "that paint a definite picture" (see section 6). And they work well with "field", "infinite" and "empty" to create a visual effect of sun, sweat and a rolling countryside thrown open.
It is in this setting that Neruda introduces his posse of bicycles -- "insects" -- and within a few lines elevates them to a surreal status -- "silent ... translucent" -- ensuring that we'll never look at them the same way. I admire the placement and the use of the metaphor "insects" because it somehow captures the mechanical, oiled and creaky quality that a bicycle has, bringing it to life while keeping the proportions intact -- bicycles are insects on a scale measuring means of transport; small and unobtrusive. Metaphors can make or mar a poem and this is one which immediately raises the quality of the poem by a significant notch. I particularly like how Neruda maintains a) the narrative of him walking and the bicycles passing him by thus retaining the sense of time in the present, and b) that hot sensation ('dry' and 'summer') which conjures up images of muscles pedalling and battling friction. Moreover, the most important adjective, in my opinion, 'translucent', in addition to tying up well with "insects", brings the poem alive, instilling on paper an image of a bicycle glinting in the sun.
Having focussed his poetic camera finely in the first two stanzas, Neruda zooms out, adding other incidental elements to the picture -- workers, girls, factories and other vegetation. This seems to be important in maintaining that magnitude of space introduced in the first stanza, of a sweeping landscape where the eye can see till the horizon, unhindered in its vision. He also seems to say that these other elements are not quite as important as the object of description, the bicycle, which has now gained momentum and whirs as compared to barely stirring the air previously. Neruda also cleverly builds up that thirsty feeling, using "summer" and "midday" quite intelligently. One also gets a social sense of the bicycle -- that it belongs not to the rich, but to the poor, to the young and the physically fit, not to those suited to a pedantic form of life. Another thing to note is the "hard / beetle backs" which sustain the thread of the "insects" metaphor and also lend a quality of hardiness to the lives of those who cycle.
Tightly reined in so far, Neruda now lets go in the coda. He makes a few quick switches: from the reality around him into his imagination -- "I thought"; from the sweeping landscape to the confines of an imagined house/ common room (as hinted at by the door); from day to night. That carefully built up feeling of sun, thirst, sweat and grime is now rapidly quenched, extinguished, with words such as "evening", "wash" and "wine" which seem to instantly cool the poem down, descending it to the lower temperatures of the after-work hours. Neruda facilitates this by evoking "love" and "life" which slow the poem down after the marching motion of the first few stanzas. Having cooled down, Neruda again focusses back on the bicycle and closes exquisitely, knitting it with the "insect" metaphor, bringing it back to life in our eyes, even if it is to show that it is now lifeless, at least temporarily. He infuses a notion of sadness and abandonment -- the bicycles now "waiting / at the door" and then "fallen". The last few lines, in particular, are exemplary, especially "the bicycle, / stilled, / because / only moving / does it have a soul, / and fallen there / it isn't / a translucent insect / humming / through summer / but / a cold / skeleton". The rapid back-and-forth shifting of contrast is breathtaking: "stilled / moving / fallen / humming"; "soul / skeleton"; "summer / cold"; "insect" (alive and warm) / "skeleton" (cold and lifeless) -- a fabulous flourish at the finish.
One misgiving I do have with the poem is regarding the line-breaks. There appears to be no logic to them. Maybe it's got something to do with the translation, but they make me one very unhappy reader.

Noticed ...

... this on a girl's t-shirt on my way to lunch -

I'm rich ...

I'm single.

Pink short t-shirt. Glittery lettering.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The O word and Goosebumps

Song - Jalsa (Remix).

Movie - Chennai 600028.

At least in two places, once in the second minute and once in the third minute, you can distinctly hear a voice chastely uttering the O word.

Postmodernism - 1, Censor Board - 0.

Saturday and I finally got around to watching this earache of a movie. But no this isn't about the movie.
A few of us were at Santham, settled in, when a slide comes on saying "Please stand for the national anthem". The audience stands up; the Bharat Bala video comes on (I hadn't seen this before). I start mouthing the words, more out of an attempt to see if I remember them than anything. Bhimsen Joshi, Balamuralikrishna, the Mangeshkar sisters ... one by one, a line each, all clad in pristine white.
And then, just when I was wondering when Rahman would come on, he appears to conclude, singing 'Jaya he' in that boyish voice of his.
The way he lets that first 'Jaya he' hang, the earnestness of his patriotism ... goosebumps. Totally*. Especially if you're standing in the dark with all your senses tuned to the screen.
* - Found the link while I was bloghopping; forgot from where.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


your words lie
littering the floor,
like newspapers
flung here and there.

they lounge lazily
on the couch, crowding,
the spaces of my soul,

the way i see myself.

my patience bends,
sweeps them up,
stacks them in a corner
of my memory,
to read later, at leisure,
when i’m tired of us.

i close the door
on you,
slip the latch in place,
locking within
a roomful of anger
that could burn
photographs and promises.

i cook lunch,
wipe the windows clean
of our arguments,
watch the news, and
take out the trash
from my mind.

when evening balds,
i stand on the porch,
anxious for you
to return
your love
at night.

but up in the attic,
newspapers lie
piled up,
a whiff of disillusionment.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The perfect metaphor is not that which insists upon a new way of seeing things. It is one that reveals a connection which was always there but never noticed. And having revealed, quietly recedes into the background, never drawing attention to itself but the connection.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


raindrops slice
this sodium-vapour evening,
unassuming pedestrians and
black-and-white pavements
with tears from heaven.

soda-orange sky
hangs above
spotted with labour-union crows --
raucous wings
with impassive statues;
voices caw dissent
against the statutes of time.

under a shy moon,
waves flourish
water-carpet merchandise
on shore markets,
trading foam
with salty ankles
and bare calves.

night, meanwhile, seeps ink
from underneath the sea,
drawing its blanket
over another day
of a hyphenated youth.