A message from my Ex

​Now and then I think of the times when we used to be together

You would patiently wait for me to wake up

Although you never said it out aloud, I knew I meant the world to you.

I lay happily in the comfort of your bedroom.

Sometimes, you would sleep with me beside 

While I lay awake pretending to love your snores 

Or rather, your passive ignorance of my presence.

I helped you keep in touch with your friends 

And brought you stories from across the globe,

While you made love to me on the table amidst the pile of papers

Or sometimes, on your sweaty laps.
But you didn’t have to cut me off just like that after more than seven years,

Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing.

I don’t even need your love now

But I hate the way you treat me now like a stranger

And that hurts me deeply. 

No, you didn’t have to stoop so low!

I don’t even know who you even hang out with anymore,

I guess I don’t need that though.

I thought you had left me because of the looks

But only when I became trendy and thought I had the edge, 

Your conscious ignorance taught me that what mattered for you was Speed.
I had always wanted things to happen slower.

You were always on a rush and wanted things to happen fast.

It was hard to accept at first but I had to resign with pain in my heart.

I wait for that Someday when we could patch up like Ross and Rachel after ‘the break’,

But I doubt it shall happen while you ignore me like Rachel did Gunther.

I know one thing for sure though that when we do meet, 

We would both say it together, ‘Oh my God!’ just like Janice and Chandler.

Perhaps, our break-up was designed by the God above.

But for now, I shall leave you with this thought:

The rose is gone but its fragrance still remains. What I mean is,

I know there is a space for me in your heart because I was your first love.

Sincerely yours,

Internet Explorer

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Things I missed writing about

For the past month or so, I have been quite busy. I wanted to write about a lot of things but ended up missing them. So, here I am trying to pen them down, in no particular order.

The Madras I had ignored: August is the month of Madras. If there is an ideal month to visit this southern coastal city, it is August. The city turned 377. There were several events lined up. I happened to attend a session called Houses of Mylapore based on L’s suggestion. We had met at a spoken word poetry event. She had invited me to be a part of this unique program where a group of architecture students from the city would explore the architecture of the houses in Mylapore. We often convince ourselves that we pretend to know the city we live in for a considerably long time until we venture to discover things we have failed to notice. There were about forty of us on an early Sunday morning. We started with an individual house constructed somewhere in the 1930s. The house with a curved motif and a hexagonal balcony seemed heavily influenced by Portuguese architecture. I wish I could delve on this longer for I would have to speak about the Burma teakwood or the Mangalore brick tiles or the Art Decko font style but for now, they shall stay in my diary. But there were a few things to take away from that event. I came to understand how the Indian architecture was more influenced by being open-faced and welcoming than European architecture, which was more self-centered and closed. Unlike what others presume, Mylapore isn’t a Filter kaapi preferring – The Hindu reading – TamBrahm community either. Muslims and Jains have lived peacefully over centuries. On the other hand, I also realized how architecture is essential in preserving the cultural history of a city. In a few months or a few years from now, most of these ‘old’ houses would be gone. Unfortunately, not many seem to care about it. How can a city cut ties with its past? Where would the memories of a city be preserved? Photographs are merely a way of escapism. Shouldn’t we look beyond religious places of worship to keep the ‘old’ Madras intact?For raising awareness and provoking questions we have failed to ask, I loved the session.

Taking control of my Phone: I happened to meet my online friends in Bangalore back in July. We have known each other for more than a year now but never had the chance to meet. We had fun (the kind of fun that ought to be better preserved in the treasure chest of memories). But S, a dear friend of mine, mentioned that I spent a lot of time checking my phone. And so, I have had it at the back of my mind to restrict my phone usage. There were other reasons too. Most notably when I noticed a disturbing pattern that has always been existent but one which I consciously admitted to myself just recently, as kind of misleading. During the 2016 Rio Olympics, there was a news item doing the rounds that when P V Sindhu won the silver, Indians were googling for her caste. I understand that my country is caste-sensitive and no matter how hard filmmakers like Nagraj Manjule and Pa. Ranjith try to fight the caste oppression through their films, the problem is not going to run away soon. Later, my friend M pointed out to me a blog which said that the news item was false. Now, why does the media think it can ‘handle’ the truth? Why does it have to take sides and create divisions? To top it all, the conversations on social media clearly polarized Indians. On the other hand, the Facebook and Twitter feeds are such that a sensitive issue being reported in the media is followed by a meme targeting a section of the society.

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One fine day in August, I found this wonderful photo on the Internet and decided to pull the plug. We have been tuned to focus on the unimportant and inessential things in life that we seemed to have misplaced our priorities. I am reminded of a dialogue from Richard Linklater’s 2014 Oscar nominated coming-of-age drama Boyhood. Mason Evans Jr. is driving with his girlfriend, who is frequently checking the phone. He gets annoyed after a few minutes and they have an argument where he tells, ‘I finally figured it out. It’s like when they realized it was gonna be too expensive to actually build cyborgs and robots. I mean, the costs of that were impossible. They decided to just let humans turn themselves into robots. That’s what’s going on right now. I mean, why not? They’re billions of us just laying around, not really doing anything. We don’t cost anything. We’re even pretty good at self-maintenance and reproducing constantly. And as it turns out, we’re already biologically programmed for our little cyborg upgrades. I read this thing the other day about how When you hear that ding on your inbox, you get like a dopamine rush in your brain. It’s like we’re being chemically rewarded for allowing ourselves to be brainwashed. How evil is that? We’re fucked.’ Come to think of it! Social networks have been operating like sugar companies. Now, Facebook has come up with a Live Video feature on its mobile app. Mark Zuckerberg wants you to share more intimate details from your life. He wants you to be more open. Seriously Mark? Therefore, I wiped my mobile clean of all the social media apps. I still use Social Media but would rather control my use rather than have it dictating terms.

Some new hobbies: It has been a long time since I played Chess and so, I actually bought a Chess board. I only watch TV for Wimbledon and Cricket. Occasionally, I give company for my parents when they watch comedy scenes during our family time. Now, I pulled my dad into playing Chess with me instead. We are trying to play it every night and schedule it into our daily routine. I have also taken a liking to Podcasts. I realized that I will never get to read all the interesting books out there. So if you are unable to read books, listen to interesting people discuss ideas instead. I downloaded this wonderful app called Pocket Casts which is all of just 99 Rupees. And once you download, you get to listen to any Podcast of your choice. My favourite ones so far being:-

Design Matters with Debbie Millman — It is a wonderful podcast where she talks to writers, artists, educators and change agents on their work and ideas. I happened to love her podcast with philosopher Alain de Botton on his books on Love and his philosophy.

The Frame — This podcast is hosted by longtime LA film writer John Horn who talks to the people from the Hollywood Universe, art, and music. The reason why I have come to like his podcasts are because they are more centred towards the profession/arts.

Scriptnotes — Screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin discuss screenwriting and related topics in the film and television industry, right from the writing to topics like copyrights. If you are a screenwriter or even a writer, this is a podcast you must definitely listen to!

The Portfolio Life with Jeff Goins — I have been following Jeff Goins on Medium and read his articles on writing regularly. I have tried to put into practice his words of advice for writers. In this podcast, he helps you in trying to make a difference with your art. He engages in conversation with interesting people from different walks of life. While this may sound like a boring self-help talk, Jeff Goins at least doesn’t take a boring approach to it and makes us feel inspired. here are many more interesting ones to listen to

I find that listening to podcasts as a liberating and enriching experience. I generally listen to it right after I wake up or after work. It makes me feel inspired as there is always a thing or two inspiring to take away from. A 16-minute podcast of John  Horn with Amy Adams at the Telluride Film Festival where she was awarded for her body of work taught me how theater played an important role in making her self-dependent and how she goes methodically preparing for her role. There are many more interesting ones to listen to and I am trying to unearth some really good finds. Will post about that in my next post.

But for now, I shall have to make time for my Podcast Hour and solitude! 🙂

Flame in the Jar

The boy looked at the people praying in front of an idol at a temple. He didn’t understand why men would worship a stone sculpture. Being a kid who was yet to be schooled the limitations of dreams, he asked his father repeatedly ‘Who is God?’. Since they were expected to be silent, his father pointed towards the idol. But the boy continued asking the question. The father was annoyed and just as he was about to hit him, the priest stepped out and said, ‘Little man. Listen! Whoever catches the flame in a jar is God.’ The boy went insane. He stopped from school. He stopped playing with friends his age. When they asked him why he was carrying a glass jar always, he only told them one thing — that he was trying to catch the flame in a jar. One day, the other kids marked him. They pelted stones at him because they felt he had been possessed by a devil. The boy ran away, tugging the glass jar to his chest. Soon, the elders came to know and the feudal lord called for his father. The feudal lord said, ‘There is no room for lunatics here. I shall call the vicar and he shall drive the devil away from your son’. The father nodded in agony. The vicar took chilli powder and rubbed the boy’s eyes. The boy didn’t cry in pain. But his voice grew louder. ‘I shall catch the flame in a jar for I am God.’ The vicar then took a knife and cut a cross on the boy’s head. He bled profusely. His mother began to wail and the other women tried consoling her. His father began to mutter prayers. The vicar continued to cure the boy from the illness. Finally, after many hours, the boy collapsed. His body was placed on the funeral pyre and long after he had turned to ashes, people started thronging to the little town. Right on the place where he was burnt to ashes, they found a glass jar with its lid closed. But that was not a strange sight. Strange was the flame burning in it. They thought it was magic but the moment the jar was taken away from the place, the flame would die. The moment it was taken back to where it was found, people could see the flame. And so, they let the jar be. Soon, they began circumambulating the place. A temple was built around it. People began to worship the boy who caught the flame in a jar.

The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

Kabali is probably my favourite movie of Rajinikanth in a longwhile. Yes, his age shows. His dialogue delivery falters. But the earnestness in his eyes have remained the same. The film has been quite divisive. Yes, the movie doesn’t appear to be convincing but I am glad that it was made. To label it as a political statement by Pa. Ranjith would be misleading. Here we have a film maker who gets an opportunity at a young age to direct Rajinikanth and he makes a film that focuses on the Tamils in Malaysia (the immigrants who have been made to feel like minorities). But, there is no doubting the movie’s relevance. The Afro-American community have been facing the same issues in USA. But this write-up is not going to be about that. It is about Rajinikanth, the Superstar.
 
Kabali
 
I could not help thinking about Birdman. The movie by Alejandro González Iñárritu’s had won the Director an Oscar apart from winning the Best Picture at the 87th Academy Awards last year. The movie is about an ageing movie star, Riggan Thomson played by Michael Keaton who tries to reinvent himself as an actor by returning to Broadway with a play. Understanding Birdman is essential in appreciating Rajinikanth and Kabali. There is so much of hatred flowing from certain quarters, especially from the pseudo-intellectuals or rather, intellectual clowns who are quite cynical about Rajinikanth and condemn everything about him — his acting, fame and reach.
The Creativity Conundrum
I loved Rajinikanth in Kabali because it was a detour from his usual. There were no stereotypical Rajinisms. It made me think fondly of the Rajini before Basha happened. Just like how as Kabali, he tells a man from his rival gang that he has come back strong after twenty-five years Rajini too had returned to his Thalapathy form.
Coming to Birdman, the movie educates on the finer aspects of creativity — the significance of value, the critics assigning value to the work and the finer differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. In case if you haven’t seen Birdman yet, I am summarizing it here for you: Riggan Thomson is struggling, both personally and professionally. He has separated from his wife, Sylvia because he confused ‘love with admiration’. He is certainly past his superhero days of Birdman. He had acted in 3 movies and declined to do a fourth film. He doesn’t want to do another Birdman film because that is what fans and even his alter-ego wants. Thomson wants to challenge his creative self and hence, decides to enter a domain where he is literally a nobody: Theatre. A domain which has a critical audience and hence, success is not guaranteed.
 
Birdman
Creative minds constantly face this creativity conundrum phase just before they begin another project: should I stay in my comfort zone and deliver what my fans/followers want? or should I make myself happy? This separates Rajinikanth from Kamal Hassan. Rajinikanth’s Thalapathi and Kamal Hassan’s Guna clashed on Diwali in 1991. Since then, Rajinikanth has largely stayed in his comfort zone while Kamal has experimented.
Therefore you see, it is not easy as it seems. Let me explain why:-
The Creation:
Creative minds are always thinking about creating something ‘new’ and ‘valuable’. Creating something ‘new’ is the easy part. You just have to do something that has not been done before. Pa Ranjith’s earlier film Madras had metaphorically touched upon a lot of issues, the most important being how caste is being toyed with by political parties for serving their own needs. Madras was refreshing. The audience connected with it. This is the tough part. The ‘valuable’. Because, value to a work of creation is assigned by the audience. No creative mind can dictate their terms there. Once you have created something and let it out, the product belongs to the audience.
But the ‘new’ and ‘value’ do not match all the times. When you have been consistently doing a kind of work and then, deviate from what you have been doing, your audience is not going to accept because they hate change. In Riggan Thomson’s case, the audience wants him to do Birdman 4. In Rajinikanth’s case, they want him to do a Rajini film filled with Rajini-isms (Annamalai, Basha, Padayappa). Rajini was a Star earlier too but the films that followed Thalapathy have seen him doing familiar roles and has further accentuated his stay at the peak added with his continued relevance despite crossing the Indian retirement age of sixty-five. The audience has been able to accept Amitabh Bachchan or Robert DeNiro or Al Pacino playing character roles but in the case of Rajini, the audience has simply been unable to picture their star playing character roles.
Forget character roles, the audience seems divided upon Kabali because it doesn’t have Rajini-isms.
(to be continued…)

Raman Raghav 2.0 – An engrossing thriller

Anurag Kashyap’s latest film paints a vivid portrait of a serial killer. The opening title cards establish the connection with the notorious serial killer of the 1960s: Raman Raghav, who had left a trail of 41 murders behind him and immediately affirms that this movie is not about him. The story revolves around two men, the serial killer Ramanna (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and the cop Raghuvendra Singh Ubbi (Vicky Kaushal).

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It is not a chess game where Ramanna and Raghuvendra try to outwit each other. Both are puppets in the hands of temper and self-interest. At a later stage in the movie, Ramanna tells as to how much he enjoys the act of killing just like he likes to eat and sleep. Raghuvendra, on the other hand, isn’t afraid to commit a crime as he is part of the system. Killings happen and they act more as points in a journey of the two men as they get closer to each other. Kashyap splits the evil into two equally insane halves and from then on, it becomes more of an attempt for each of them to be complete.

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Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Ramanna is easily one of the most chilling portrayals of a serial killer we have seen on screen. Ramanna loves wearing sunglasses, loves observing airplanes (he keeps count of them), maintains a record of people he killed and at times, moves around wearing his sister’s earrings. His eyes sparkle when he talks about his philosophy. He nonchalantly talks about how he believes Yama, God of Death, speaks to him. That is how he gets to pick people for his acts of killing. He believes that hiding behind the cloak of law or religion to commit isn’t as pure as killing for the sake of it. He enjoys and revels in it. Vicky Kaushal excels as the reckless, drugs addicted cop, Raghuvendra Singh Ubbi. Raghuvendra is a monster courting insanity with his frequent mood swings, accentuated by loss of drugs, makes him commit heinous acts of crime. Being born and brought up in a patriarchal society, they are both victims of it. Ramanna loathes his sister. On the other hand, Raghuvendra uses women for his sexual cravings. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the women meet the meatiest of blows.

What captivates and keeps you engaged is the way the story pans out. It is divided into eight chapters, reminding one of Tarantino films. Jay Oza’s cinematography – the film is mostly shot in the slums of Mumbai along with Ram Sampath’s background score and songs (especially Behooda which has been placed well by Anurag Kashyap) make this a compelling watch and provide a wholesome cinematic experience.

There are a few scenes that shall remain in your memory for a long time. Like how Ramanna surrenders to the cops, confesses to his crimes only to be let off by the Police owing to their collective disbelief. There is an extended sequence where Ramanna prepares himself a chicken curry in between gruesome killings where Kashyap keeps you guessing whether a six-year-old boy would land up as his next victim or not. But the most riveting scene of the movie comes where a couple is slaughtered to death in a slum and Ramanna casually feeds milk to a crying baby that truly emphasises on his unpredictable nature.

Raman Raghav 2.0 is a compelling narrative, an engrossing thriller that keeps you guessing and above all, a captivating study of two characters.

An edited version of this can be found here.

If…now

If you can work and not rant about it on Medium,
If you can have food at a restaurant and not burp on Zomato,
If you can travel and not post pics on Instagram,
If you can speak only when needed to on WhatsApp,
If you can think and not post your thoughts on Twitter,
If you can live every moment to the fullest and not let Facebook sync with your life,
You would become worth searching for on Google and may be graced with a page on Wikipedia.

Thoughts on ‘Thithi’

‘Thithi’ is the kind of film I love for the memories it evokes. I am reminded of the short story, A Horse and Two Goats by R K Narayan. No one captures the irony of a human life in a rural setting like R K Narayan does. I am also reminded of the Apu trilogy by Satyajit Ray. What if the two men were alive today and set out to make a film but wanted to have fun along the way by experimenting with the rawness an Indian rural life evokes to colour its contours.
 
That is precisely what Director Raam Reddy and Writer Eregowda have done with Thithi. It is no way an exaggeration. We have seen wonderful movies set in rural heartlands in the past. But what truly sets Thithi from the rest is the casting and the place. Nearly all the actors in the movie are from the village with no prior acting experience and the story was developed keeping the ethos of the village in mind, improved upon by the passage of time. The final film that we got to see is what got developed in the editor room. As Indian cinema turns more urban-centred, to create a film in the village suiting to its character, then attempt to capture the nativity of the village and keep its rawness intact is an achievement.
THITHI-intl_poster
 
The story is about how three generations of men in a family react to the death of the cantankerous ‘Century Gowda’, the 101-year-old family patriarch. There is this good-hearted but uncouth ‘Gadappa’, son of Century Gowda, who is detached from the world and doesn’t want to remain at a place. There is a reason behind it which is narrated by him to a group of sheepherders later in the story. Thammanna, the grandson, is materialistic and is interested only in the agricultural farmlands inherited by his father from Century Gowda. He wants to clear his debts by selling them but is unable to make his father transfer the same to his name. Abhi, the great-grandson, is tasting the colorful days of his youth in his unashamedly relentless pursuit of a shepherd girl. Instead of being preachy and philosophical. The three stories converge on the 11th day of Century Gowda’s funeral, Thithi.
 
Raam Reddy lets the characters speak for themselves lending more credence to the narrative. The sounds of the village come alive. It is so good to see a movie without background score and instead make the audience appreciate the aural texture of Nodekkapalu village in Mandya district. Even the cacophonous bleating of goats and the village band sound music to the ears.
 
Easily one of the finest Indian movies I have seen. No wonder why #AnuragKashyap rated it as one of the three recent Indian movies that he wished had directed along with Vetrimaaran‘s Visaaranai and Nagraj Manjule‘s Sairat. Kudos to the writer Eregowda for weaving a narrative out of his village and to the Director Raam Reddy for giving it a celluloid form. Cinematography by Doron Tempert, Sound Designing by Nithin Lucus and Editing by John Zimmerman deserve full credit for their efforts.
 
Thithi ~ the heartbeats of Rural India!