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The Rivered Earth

January 14, 2012 Leave a comment

The sad thing about my reading a great book about music or poetry is that although I love reading it I can never fully understand it, and therefore never fully appreciate it, and so no matter how much I like or hate it I can neither trust my judgement of it nor fully articulate my half-formed opinions about it.

This was my problem with Vikram Seth’s An Equal Music and is also my problem with his new book, The Rivered Earth. It’s about his collaboration with a composer and a violinist, the first part being memories and interviews, which I understood enough of to laugh/nod at the right places, the second part being the text that was set to music. I *liked* a lot of the latter; can’t honestly say I loved it or that it was particularly memorable or awe-inspiring, but then again, what do I know. I missed Seth’s usual puns and word play – there was such little of that in there. It’s a pity that I read something by such a great writer and look for gimmicks as handrails to his words, but in this case I should totally blame Seth. He’s conditioned his readers to *look* for, as he puts it, puerile puns and ciphers, acrostics and double/triple entredres.

I love his stories about his house. The fact that his house has history and character gives his work more heft – I think knowing his personal choices has given his work that extra shine, at least in my eyes. Where you live is such an incredibly effective way to communicate to the world the kind of person you are, more subtle, more powerful than the clothes you wear and somehow taken so much more seriously by ‘very important people’.

I wonder if I could do it – live in the house of, say, Virginia Woolf? Or maybe in her room. That would be such a delicious irony. But of course, it would force me to confront the madness in my head head-on – and it’s so much nicer to just have that on the fringes of my regular life, forming the fjords of my human-interactions. I like living in my very stable mainland.

Still, going back to the book, I found a lot of the themes pedestrian and the interpretations predictable (a collaboration across time and with influences from different parts of the world is called ‘Confluences’!! It’s as bad as when they named the theater group at our business school ‘Expressions’). The poetry was too often way, way literal even for me, the lover of all things direct. So much so that there was no fun in any of it. This is no Golden Gate.

But you know – the problem is likely with me. Indian classical music has a very different aesthetic from Western music. What is ‘kewl’ and admirable here is very different from what works there. And all my hours spent absorbing dhrupads isn’t going to get me anywhere with understanding this or Philip Glass’s Satyagraha. Too bad, because there’s only so much I can glean from a cursory reading of my favorite author’s quickly jotted-off interpretations.

So yes, if you know anything about music, you should totally read this. And maybe explain it to me.

Categories: culture, literature, music, rw Tags:

Battle for Bittora

May 3, 2011 2 comments

Battle for Bittora is Anuja Chauhan’s second book, another wickedly funny, light-hearted romance set in contemporary India, and it’s been very interesting to see how she’s evolved/changed as an author from The Zoya Factor. Not to mention, it’s such a great read by itself.

*Spoilers galore, mind*

UPDATE: I deleted this paragraph before posting first because it seemed too corporate & ‘pat’, but I really want to make the conclusions explicit, so I’m putting it back in…I think the big change is Chauhan’s increased confidence – in her content (#1 below and #5) and in the business (#3 & #4), and in her craft (which comes across in #6 and #2 below, where the confidence wasn’t as warranted). Content and business are maybe easier to learn than craft? Or does the learning curve for craft, as opposed to content/business take up some funny plateaus on its way? Or worse, does success lead to a flattening of the only learning curve that truly matters for a fiction writer – craft (as opposed to a technical writer for whom content is key)? Anyway, here are my thoughts…..

First, let me just state how much I love the casual feminism in Bittora:

  • The plethora of fantastic, fully realized female characters here makes this book easily pass the Bedchel Test, and I’m not sure The Zoya Factor does that.
  • She wins!!! She wins!!! They have a political battle, and she wins, fair and square. I was dreading reading the ending of the book because I was expecting it to be something like Zain winning, and Jinni totally making an unbelievably submissive cop-out at the end, like realizing at the last minute that she never had wanted the seat, and then Zain offering to make her his second-in-command, which would’ve left such, such, such a bad taste in my mouth.
  • I love how she has an internal life and a purpose throughout the book, and that the reader can believe that she has a life path ahead of her after the ending, too. Unlike Zoya, where the romance was the main story, and you were left wondering if she quit her job afterward or something.
  • The protagonist’s last name is the same as her maternal grandmother’s, and there is no explanation of this. None whatsoever. Smart writing, too, because saying anything there would’ve just sounded contrived and defensive. This is an unlikely scenario, but not all that unbelievable, especially in the anything-goes world of Indian politics (Indira Gandhi appropriated the ‘Gandhi’ name quite randomly, for instance).
  • No Disney-dead-mother syndrome here, thank you very much. And the woman character gets a cool, permissive mom, too, the likes of which usually cool male characters get. The women get cool dads and dead, or absent, or subservient moms.
  • Chauhan dismisses Rahul Mahajan categorically. I wish she also dissed Salman Khan less subtly.
  • How fantastic was Ammaji’s comment about wanting to ‘settle’ her granddaughter – i.e., her career, not her marriage. For all her religious bigotry, how very, very far-thinking and impressive.

Second, and hopefully not caused by the first point above: somehow for me, the romance isn’t that very strong. It’s still amazing, and better than most other books, but Zoya Factor wins, very slightly, here. It’s not for lack of a fantastic hero in Bittora – if anything, Zain Altaf Khan is even more ‘eligible’ than Nikhil Khoda – he is equally handsome, of royal blood, is an environmental engineer and an MIT graduate, and as a teenager, wrote a superhero series – and has compelling vulnerabilities! All of this should’ve totally made him more compelling than the sports-quota-type, back-story-missing Khoda, at least for someone like me (erm, I still swoon over liberal young handsome Indian Muslim men with the nostalgia of my own love. But, TMI). What gives, then?
Maybe it is just the fact that this is a repeat performance, and nothing beats the first, unspoiled, original version.
Maybe it is the fact that the first book was focused more on the romance and less on the Zoya Factor phenomenon, and the second book was focused equally on the political battle and the romance (actually this one is hard to say. I think both were equally split!).
Maybe because Zain never does something completely unexpected and out-of-the-blue in the romance, he’s never pushing the envelope, unlike Khoda with his ‘I’ve been wanting to kiss you all evening’ and his random intimate text messages especially in public, his popping-up-in-her-hotel-rooms-when-least-expected, etc.
Maybe it is because all the back-story of the romance is between sixteen-year-olds and thirteen-year-olds in Bittora, and that for me was borderline creepy and often boring.
Maybe because the first time they meet, they instantly jump into their make-out session, with no build-up for the reader. Anticipation is half the fun.
Maybe in said ‘first-for-the-reader-make-out-session’, Zain disregards her non-consent and kisses her. Somehow that wasn’t as hot as I think the author set it out to be. Khoda does a similar thing towards the end of the first book and that played out as playful (ha!), here I found it distasteful.
Maybe it is because I was put off by the crude ancillary references, e.g. Tawny uncle’s son The Rapist, the crowd’s groping at the mela, etc. that were all supposed to be casually laughed off (and were pretty much correct-for-context), but which totally put me in a defensive, disgusted mood, not receptive towards the actual romance. In Zoya Factor, the ancillary references are equally crude, but they refer to sex (not rape).
Maybe it is because the supporting cast in Bittora – especially Ammaji – was so solidly crafted that your attention was split, vs. in the first book where no one else apart from the main characters got to monopolize reader attention & affection.
Maybe it is the fact that in the Big Contest in the book, Khoda won his battle, but Zain lost. Did ‘loser stench’ ruin the latter’s alpha male scent?
Maybe it is that Khoda kept his hands and nose very clean and never lost the high moral ground during the book, even in times of stress with Jogpal & Sons. Zain was doing as much mud-slinging and dirt-throwing as his competitors in the electoral battle. A Bauji-type honest man would’ve called for suspension of disbelief, but wouldn’t’ve been totally impossible, would he?
Maybe it is that Khoda was shown to be a leader of men, literally, but Zain was only shown to command his friends’ loyalty, which is admirable, but less sexy.
Maybe it is because the captain of a successful Indian cricket team is unattainably desirable, but there are a hundred former-prince’s-son-types around?
Maybe, paradoxically, it is because there is a close real-life analogy to Khoda in M S Dhoni but someone like Zain isn’t really around today (no, not even Omar Sharief).
Maybe it is the face that the power and social status imbalance is so little, almost negligible, between Zain and Jinni, rather than the insurmountable gulf of celebrity between Khoda and Zoya. And obviously power imbalances are what make (straight?) women swoon with lust, or something.
(Oh, and of the four main characters, I only referred to Khoda by last name in my first draft of this post, then went to correct it, and stopped myself. Maybe my subconscious is telling me something. That I think of Khoda as more male? That the author thinks of Khoda as more male? She keeps calling Zain ‘Zain’, but called Nikhil Khoda ‘Khoda’ almost throughout. Men are usually called by their last names, especially in situations of power and authority, and women are called by their first names – through history, and for various reasons. Remember how everyone back in 2008 called Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton ‘Obama’ and ‘Hillary’ respectively?)

Third, the Hinglish was so much more obvious here in Bittora. There was not even the perfunctory attempt as in the first to ease the way for readers who didn’t speak Hindi or know local references. This is an unapologetic “of Indians, by Indians, for Indians” book. While I’m impressed with such confidence and a little intimidated (what to do, I’m a pasty-faced NRI), a part of me does wish they would care for their overseas readers, even if it’s just so readers like me could share the book with local friends here. But yooooohooooo for no more stupid substitutions like ‘unleavened bread with clarified butter’ for roti-and-ghee, like in English books by Indians published even as late as 2002.
This means the economics of the publishing/book selling business is so sound in desh that it can sustain itself, which is more than the US publishing business can say for itself. Despite nakli books sold by eight-years olds at traffic lights. Good for you, desh.

Fourth, and related to the above, the target audience seems to be a more mainstream Indian than the SEC A, urban woman target audience of Zoya Factor. There aren’t too many highbrow riffs on people who use unnecessary plurals (‘anyways’/‘grands’/‘butts’); instead, the riffs are now on people who ask politicians for favors. The internal demon that gets defeated is not a nation’s harmless superstitions during cricket matches but the violent, all-pervasive, gut-wrenching religious bigotry.

Fifth, and this is not a change in Chauhan’s writing as much as a repeat performance. I’ve also recently read a couple of other desi chick-lit books, and wanted to gouge my eyes out. The plot is non-existent. The heroes are vapid. There is absolutely no originality to the stories or the characters or the conflict or the treatment. There is liberal lifting of entire narrative arcs from Sex and the City and Bridget Jones’ Diary, the wannabe-ness of it all is depressing. Oh, and the editing is SO disgusting, SO terrible the editors should commit hara-kiri. In Advaitha Kala’s Almost Single, the very first line has the protagonist waking up from a ‘deep dreamless REM sleep’ and I read that and threw the book across the room in disgust. Unfortunately, in a moment of weakness I picked the book off the floor a few days later and continued reading, to my eternal regret. Another book – Kkarishma’s Konfessions, was it? – has a blatant error in the first page: someone is someone’s elder sister, then suddenly becomes the younger sister in page two and goes on. And that typo is not even an ironic insight into the idiotic world of Indian soaps. If it was an insight, it was way too subtle as irony and way too obvious as a typo.
So, compared to genre, Chauhan’s books are high literature, which is not saying much. But even by themselves, her books are well researched and grounded in their industry and setting (rural India and politics for Bittora, cricket and advertising for The Zoya Factor), have lots of in-jokes about Bollywood and pop culture, and lots of really funny random insights (“like all visiting NRIs, [mother] was obviously hoping to squeeze both a funeral and a wedding into one India trip” – Bittora, or “People who knew only one language…what would they switch to if they started getting pally, or angry, or fell in love?” – Zoya Factor)

Sixth: I love that this one had a much more satisfying ending. This book had closure. Of the relationship, and also, for the character’s individual lives. Zoya Factor didn’t. I kept turning the page to see if I’d missed the last part. That, if nothing else, makes author confidence very clear, as I’m realizing in my own writing.

So what’s unchanged?

As before, Chauhan’s own stated real-life inspiration for the hero (Saif Ali Khan for Zain Altaf Khan) completely rings false (like Rahul Dravid for Nikhil Khoda. Ew.) Saif when younger was too dissolute and completely unlike current-time-Zain or even younger-Zain. And current Saif? Oh, please. The guy is more and more like a real-life Macbeth, with his insecurities and his younger, prettier girlfriend.
As before, I can imagine only Farhan Akhtar in today’s Bollywood doing any justice to Zain’s character. Stretch it to Imran Khan, or (ugh) Ranbir Kapoor. I actually know some people in real life who’d play this role perfectly, too. Jinni would have to be Ayesha Dharkar, I suppose, just to be able to do justice to the ‘abnormally wide smile’. Konkana & Kareena are good stretch choices.

Finally, if she were to ask me: dude, what should I change in my next book, I’d say:
Please have a genuine love triangle. I’m curious to see how you’ll write that. Oh, and please don’t have a creepy, precocious pre-teen male child with an inappropriate obsession (women’s panties/human torture). It’s too done, and done irritatingly. And get yourself a website, woman, it is 2011 already, and even fans have needs – e.g. to obsessively stalk their authors.

Oh, oh, and write more. Please.

Kurbaan vs. New York

November 22, 2009 1 comment

After watching the Kareena-Saif movie, we totally feel “hamne apna Saturday ‘Kurbaan’ ko kurbaan kar diya”.

The movie was a bore. And way too much like New York with John Abraham and Katrina Kaif and Neil Nitin Mukesh – Islamic terrorism, a wronged desi guy out to blow up some Americans, a hapless ‘innocent wife’, a friend who’s an infiltrator into the terrorist group. But it’s fascinating how two people can treat one identical storyline in two such totally different ways. New York was nuanced, shocking, held its suspense so well, and made you intensely relate to the characters and feel their moral dilemmas. Kurbaan set out to dazzle you with the looks of the leading pair – and it succeeded with Kareena, not so much with the over-botoxed, rebonded-combovered-hair Saif – and was a movie that never made up its mind about whether it was a love story or a window into the souls of people who like killing other people. At the end of New York you walked out wondering about the pointlessness of terrorism and the senselessness of American state-sponsored violence; at the end of Kurbaan we walked out wondering about the pointlessness of the movie and the senselessness of a story that pretty much glorified terrorism.

The problem (one of the many problems, really) with Kurbaan is that it was like that episode of 24 where a liberal dude trusts the brown stranger against the fervent opposition of the all-American dude suspicious of all brown people with funny names, and then the brown stranger turns out to be a terrorist after all. It shamelessly encouraged the average viewer to go ahead and stereotype every bukha-clad Muslim woman and every young brown man with a backpack and rewarded such stereotypes.

The writing was abysmal. They couldn’t make up their minds whose perspective to pick – Kareena’s or Vivek’s or Diya’s, so they went with option (D), all of the above. Unlike New York, where everything unfolds from Neil’s p-o-v, and so even small revelations – like Katrina knowing all along that her handsome all-American husband is actually a terrorist – are discoveries that keep you engaged in the story. John’s haunted expression and sudden character twists are hugely gut-punching, even more so when you hear the back-story and see the real, very plausible torment he’s undergone. Here, you never really related to Saif or felt for him – not in the initial love story, not when he’s revealed to be a scheming, manipulative husband, not when you’re told why he became a terrorist, and not when he falls in love with his now-pregnant wife, and not when has his final melodramatic change of heart. His journey seems eminently alien and strange, and each twist is totally ‘yeah, right’. They’d’ve been better off making his a fully negative role, throwing in a couple of wife-whacking scenes and maybe having a last-second unexplained twist (was a change of heart? did he really spare her? or did he miss his target for once?).

The logic was non-existent. It’s completely frustrating how at least two of the characters – Vivek Oberoi’s and Kareena Kapoor’s – are supposed to be Amreekan educated and liberal-thinking, but in any moment of crisis, faced with any example of rule-breaking, small or large, they end up going the illogical, circituous route. When Kareena’s neighbor comes to her for help since she’s presumably being beaten up and about to be murdered, she doesn’t go to the cops or to a local NGO dealing with DV cases, or to a women’s shelter. No, she leisurely pays an in-person visit to a news reporter that the neighbor had met months ago in an internet chatroom (yes, huh?! indeed), and passively walks away when the reporter tells her she’ll call the neighbor in a few weeks after her vacation/travel. And then Kareena, professor and consummate Manhattan girl, generally wanders around in the neighbor’s basement in the dead of night. Seriously heroine, WTF?

Poor Vivek ends up having to go one better. When he gets a lead on the people who may have bombed a plane and killed ~200 people, he decides to take on the whole terrorist agency by himself, and fight for world peace singlehandedly in a severe Miss World relapse moment. When he’s in the middle of the terror plot, he still doesn’t want to tell the cops what he knows, but renders ultimatums to Kareena (who’s under house arrest) to source a f***ing subway map for him ‘definitely by tonight!!!’. He tells the FBI/cops about the plot at the last minute, because evidently just saying ‘subway system under threat’ is less helpful than giving exact station names, because the silly FBI can’t figure that out for themselves. Touching, such faith in the American legal system. And just proves my often-repeated assertion that modern journalists are, by definition, stupid. Thank you, KJo.

Of course, the five stations targeted by Saif and Om Puri & co. to ‘teach the goras a lesson’ are the ones with the highest possible concentrations of desi people – Jackson Heights, Lexington Ave – somehow suicide bombing takes on layer 2 meanings here, or maybe they thought desi/NRI audiences wouldn’t be horrified enough if it was 57th avenue or Harlem. After all that analysis, Rensil couldn’t even be bothered to keep his stations straight, because the back-ups bombers who were to target Times Square and Grand Central and 5th ave end up somehow, in a twist, at three of the originally planned locations, having been magically swapped for the dead guys with backpacks.

More logic issues – not only do the incompetent FBI not examine voicemails and evidence – (what happened to all the wiretapped evidence courtesy FISA and the Patriot Act, huh? huh? HUH??!!), they wait around for hours in churches for tip-offs from random people, in touching displays of patience and loyalty to anonymous informers. And then reinforce their good-guy status by exclaiming ‘Jesus Christ!!!’ at regular intervals, since of course this is all a war about Christianity vs. Islam, in which Hinduism mysteriously proves victorious.

Finally, possibly the brightest spark of talent in the movie belongs to Kiron Kher’s uninhibited Afghani character – she somehow assimilates Iranian/Syrian hijabi sartorialism (maybe the real Afghan hijab was way too scary) and diction from villains in 1970s Amitabh-starrers to come up with a pretty good composite character, not too unlovable or too far from her usual Punju mom roles, but also crazy enough so you’re a tad afraid of/for her. She was definitely better than Om Puri, whom one barely noticed – except when he sulked off in a huff when his authority was easily challenged by upstart Saif. And Saif! Saif, that nawabi bad-child looking for his lost youth just continues to embarrass himself and us by trying to be all-in-one: cool-dude and action-superhero and chocolate-boy-lover in every movie. He unfortunately seems to have upped his ambition and jock-style pecs (and steroidal intake) at the exact time that his talent – and jowls, and hair volume – are moving downwards. This when he’s not terrorizing and manipulating Kareena in reel life and in real (watch their interviews where usually confident Kareena turns to him constantly for affirmation, very unlike the Poo-ing brat of Shahid’s time).

Kareena is as luminously pretty as ever, and came good in the last scene with snot freely running down her face, but somehow she leaves you with utter despair for Indian women – if psychology professors are this dumb, there’s not much hope for the rest of us. She’s completely unresourceful, can’t be bothered to do basic checks on the men she falls for, ends up accepting invites to boring sex-segregated parties, is trapped into house arrest in her own house and promptly packs a head scarf when she realizes her husband is a terrorist. And of yes, when tasked to do a difficult (!) chore, she turns to the only tool at her disposal – no, not Google, not her brains or her education, but her body and sexuality. It’s possibly not just Saif here who’s missing the 80’s.

So, yeah, John Abraham still has my heart.

Kambakkht @#!@$#@$#

July 7, 2009 Leave a comment

Mr. Rajiv Hari Om Bhatia, Hon’ble Smt Pratibha Patil called. She wants the Padma Shri back.

Is Akshay Kumar gunning to be India’s Judd Apatow? In which case, why is India’s Angelina Jolie wannabe (*cough* Posh Spice wannabe *cough*) acting in his movies again?

And who’s going to break it to either of them – and to the rest of bollywood – that feminist != man hater and/or frigid? (Please, even Hollywood’s gone beyond. Not!)

Of course, they’d’ve happily gone onto feminist = ugly, hairy, old, etc…but arre, phir piktchar kaun dekhega yaar? Hence.

Yes, Kambakkht Ishq sounds like one sick, stupid, and (worse) utterly boring flick (No, I haven’t seen it. No, I don’t intend to. Yes, I review films I haven’t seen). The first weekend after a three month movie strike in Bollywood (except for New York, which was released a couple weeks ago) is probably the only time it would’ve got the opening it’s got. Also kudos to the people marketing the movie because they made what I thought was an utterly boring trailer, but one apparently not nearly as offensive as the actual movie (unlike some other trailers which picked the worst parts of the movie to showcase).

The saddest part? Apparently Kareena’s character goes from blaming her dad for her parents’ divorce to realizing that it’s all her mom’s fault. I just hope to the Good Lord that she doesn’t subject her own mother to this appalling movie and its sleazy sub-text.

UPDATE: Apparently great minds do think alike.

Wonder Woman! Woot!

April 13, 2009 Leave a comment

So, on a lark, P pointed me to the Wonder Woman DVD at Blockbuster last week, and we watchd the movie today, simply because we wanted the next one in quickly. I speak for both of us when I say we LOVED, LOVED the movie.

And P is impressed by Keri Russell too – but I found her interviewing (here, go to ‘NEWS’) kind of hesitant. It’s the same irritating “oh, I know I did something that could be construed as feminist/strong, but – hahaha – hey dont hold it against me! I didn’t really *giggle* mean it, y’know!“. What’s with all these women?

On the contrary, the interview with Virginia Madsen (same location: here, go to ‘NEWS’) reads like a yummy bowl of the most wholesome wholemilk chocolate ice-cream ever. See what she has to say:

QUESTION: Did you prepare for voicing the Queen of the Amazons in any special way?

VIRGINIA MADSEN: Well, I prepared this morning by writing several edicts for my son (laughs). Honestly, I love when I get to play these characters that are bigger than life. There are roles in animation that I never get to do in real life and it appeals to my ego as an actor to play the Queen of Everything (laughs) Hey, I’m honest. I admit it.

VIRGINIA MADSEN: This is a blockbuster voice cast – any thoughts on your co-stars?

VIRGINIA MADSEN: Actually, Marg Helgenberger and I were waitresses in the same restaurant in Evanston, Illinois. I’m happy to say that that restaurant has since been torn down. But Marg made it out first. We both had an audition for ABC soaps different soaps, but we auditioned at the same time, and she got the part and went off to New York. Three years later, I went to L.A. So she was kind of an inspiration to me. And it makes sense that we will both be in Wonder Woman together, because we ARE Wonder Women (laughs).

QUESTION: Is there a comic book role that your inner geek covets?

VIRGINIA MADSEN: Sadly, I really want to be Batman … and I just never will be (laughs). That’s the cross I bear. When I was growing up, the really, really cool super heroes were all male so I wanted to be them. I really didn’t like Batgirl. I was like, ‘No, if I’m not gonna be Batman, I’m not gonna play.’ Maybe they could write an evil female super villain who takes over Batman, and nobody knows. Then I could live my dream (laughs). I think that’s a good idea.

[all bolding mine, all symbols and punctuation mine]

I think that’s a great idea too, Madsen! And kudos for not settling for a side girl role. May “they” write greater and better women roles for women like you to play and for people like us to watch and fall in love with.

This movie may not yet pass the Ultimate Heroine Test, but we at least have one (B) of three qualifications met:

A movie with a strong leading woman character:

A) Whose sex life the audience is not made aware of, either its details or the fact of its existence.
B) Who is not, or has not, and will not be sexually assaulted during the narrative.
C) Who does not have a makeover.

And this is my live blog of the movie [Spoilers possibly ahead – but you’ll first need to make sense out of my notes, har har har]:
_____________
W.O.W. the origin story is simply F.A.N.T.A.S.T.I.C. I’m drooling at the richness of all this. It’ll take me DAYS of reading Bullfinch to unpack all of this.

why did the GUY pilot have to go onto the island? I was hoping for the black woman ‘rook’. But yay for pilots! (After doing my first stall and my first landing and my first take off today, I feel like I’m already Amelia Earhart! :-))

ummm.. with all this discussion of what to do about the stupid pilot and the outside world – even THIS movie would fail the Bedchel test!!!

wolf whistles, ‘hot chick’ – why do the Amazons allow that? And is it really something to be brushed off?

ok, I get the silly stars and stripes – but why did Diana have to wear a bikini? Thats not even remotely like what the Amazonians were/are all wearing.

And why’s PErsephone the betrayer? Because women cannot be trusted, as always? Not good.

I liked how Diana’s mom said, because men are untrustworthy….

Great move on the Etta scene, where this colleague of Steves pretends to not be able to find her pen. But it’s WONDER WOMAN being independant – so its eas to externalize.

Aha. WW actually explains the patriarchy. 🙂 Awesome stuff.

Again, is ‘hot chick’ really something to be brushed off?

WW is a great role model too – she teaches small girls to defend themselves. Poor little girl, she doesnt know that even if she’s a zillion times better at the sword fight than the boys they wont let her play or win. Ask Hillary Clinton.

WW does NOT GET DRUNK!! WOOT!

This stupid pilot just sexualizes everything – every fight she wins. Is he trying to do a James Bond? And it’s a-okay – is he giving the audience permission to do so as well?

The street fight – wow. Simply awesome. Ten thousand leagues above the morass of the Watchmen street fight.

She pokes Deimos in the eye with a red stiletto. Umm, cute, but cliched. Anyway.

if only it was TWO girls fighting in the greek underworld, not Steve and Diana!

Is Ares is going to kill persephone? The sacrifice is like Voldemort’s attempt in the Goblet of Fire?
and Ares brought the statues to life – like in the Mummy. Which one thought of it first? Oh, maybe it was the Chinese a thousand years ago, with their Terra-cotta army….

So a simple stupid PILOT saves Wonder Woman from the talons of the eagle? AAARRGGGHHHH.This is Wybie all over again. I CANT WATCH!!!

she gives it back in the Ospedal. His first duty was not to save her, bt do her bidding. Men…………

At the footsteps of the Whitehouse, the battle begins.

Again Steve rescues her? Oh no, that was an arrow shot by *drumroll* THE AAAMAZOOONS!!!! YAY!

Oh, Ares can make Inferi…and like the Pirates in the Caribeean, they cant be killed. Every loss is doubled on the Amazonian side! Sister kills sister. Oh no. Oh no!

Ah, the inferi shake off their control with quick thinking by Artemis and Alexa. Oh good, so book knowledge is sometimes important too. Who were all those people criticizing WW for being yet another comic that glorifies violence – there’s a bone for ya!

Steve saves Atlantis….I kinda don’t mind at this point really. Wonder why :-).

Persephone ruins it for me by saying ‘we may be warriors, but we are women too – we need families and children’. What, and men don’t? It’s a false dichotomy, lady.

PERFECT – WW beat Ares with SCIENCE!! Though the fact that electricity is conducted in water should be basic…it’s surprising how less often media and fiction shows even this basic level of science. So TRIPLE YAY!

P: And she beats him fair and square. No black magic or sudden ‘out’s….

“I can lift cars, Steve – I can lift car door handles!” 🙂 oh, but she needs to apologize and keep his ego – and societal norms – in place? w.t.f.

Call if you’re going to be late, he says. Har har har .

Hey, when’s the next WW movie coming out?

In Sultings

March 17, 2009 Leave a comment

Dwarfs

Women

Gays

Lesbians

Los Angeles

10-year-olds

Uni-gun makers

Smokers

Non-smokers

Midgets

Fat people

Americans

Prostitutes

Belgians

Belgium

Irish

Girls

Black girls

African-Americans

Suicidal people

Depressed people

Priests

Little boys

Receptionists

Pakistanis

Skinheads

People on tranquilizers

People who know & practice Karate

Spastics

Robert Powell

R2D2

Vietnamese

Chocolate-inventers

Child abuse victims

Child abusers

Ticket/gate agents

Englishmen

Pregnant women

Small thrills

March 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Should be ‘small joys’, but the list below sent a small thrill up my leg. I remembered the first when someone was bashing all mainstream Bollywood movies, including the ones made in the last ten years (many of which I love).

  1. Usually in any Hindi movie song, the hero plays an instrument and sings along. Magically, during the song when he gets up and walks around/jiggles/dances around a tree, the instument still keeps playing on. And he plays spectacularly well, even if every thing you’ve learnt about his history so far states he had a deprived childhood with no access to education, let alone musical training. But in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, a girl plays the guitar. And not even the heroine – this is a friend who plays the guitar, not the all-knowing all-accomplished hero.
  2. In Baabul, one of the worst movies of all time w.r.t entertainment value as well as values in entertainment [1], has a scene where Hema Malini (swoon) confronts her husband when she’s not allowed to attend her son’s funeral per Hindu (north Indian) customs. woot!
  3. Aishwarya’s million-dollar expression of unabashed lust in Jodha Akbar in that scene. I wonder if too much acting was required there, but that’s another story…
    The story itself was great in terms of class-and gender-equality, in allowing a Queen, who was pretty much her Lord’s property, to have the right of self-expression and be self-willed. Coming from a filmmaker like Gowarikar who’s made fantastic movies like Lagaan and Swades but where the women were just props, I loved him for making J-A so equal. woot!
  4. The last scene in Luck By Chance with Konkana’s character dumping Farhaan’s character – and with that, her meal ticket – since he was being self-centered.
  5. Priyanka Chopra’s character in Dostana crying – not for love, for relationships, for shame, for social approval, for fear – but for a career loss (!!) when she gets passed over for a promotion. This, when a leading lady with a career was rare in the 80’s and Madhuri’s ‘computer science student’ character in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun was such big news.
  6. Konkana’s character in Amu doing the ‘search for her roots’ that’s usually the reserve of men around the world, since it is usually the man’s right and duty to carry on filial obligations and maintain/trace paternity lines.
  7. Shah Rukh and Rani’s characters together wishing for a girl child in Paheli. The movie itself was very strongly feministic, and talked about a woman’s right to choose her life partner and her destiny. It also was the rare Bollywood movie that allowed its leading characters to pick love over some random concept of family duty. And, its execution remained true to its setting and context. Excellent.
  8. Salaam Namaste: I know so many people had so many valid issues with this movie, but again, I’m grateful for small mercies. A leading lady with a career that is important to the story, earning her own money, working hard & long hours, and unconcerned about cleanliness in the house vs. her neat-freak male partner (YAAAAAYYYY!!!)
  9. Chokher Bali. The book was depressing in the extreme, and so’s the movie, because it reinforces old tropes of all women being sexual rivals of each other, no woman being worthy of your trust, widows as sexual predators, men as easy, innocent victims to manipulative women’s wiles, etc. But I liked that the movie showed a woman with a spine, even if by the end her spine, spirit and self are all crushed, even if she’s ultimately a victim of social mores and her she’s shown to have no control over her life or her destiny. Gosh, that was depressing – not sure if this still should be in this list!
  10. Dor – Both Gul Panag’s character as well as Ayesha Takia’s were feminists in their own ways. Of course, this one followed regional stereotypes, movie-making stereotypes, and may not even be a mainstream, masala Bollywood movie by most standards. And sadly, the women were strong not by themselves or ‘just because’; they were strong in their search for lost husbands or in their escape from rape, both situations that ‘allow’ for strength in women in a patriarchal context (other traditionally approved situations include saving your child from hunger/horror, fighting for your nation, nurturing your mother/family, etc.). But it was a good movie because it attempted to tell a woman’s story, at least showcase her voice. Small thrills, indeed.
  11. Aaja Nachle: the whole darn movie! The fact that Madhuri was back, and looking better and acting better and dancing better than ever. God, peeps, give this woman more movies, was positively glowing in every frame of this one. The fact that she didn’t need Akshaye to step in and help her out. The fact that she was not just a spirited fighter, she was also a master diplomat (watch the scene when she deflates the local goons gunning for her show with ‘this is so bharatiya, as opposed to a shopping mall, ji). The fact that she and her friend make up with each other (does that help the movie pass the Bedchel test?). Sadly, her counsel to Konkana when the younger girl is failing in love, to act feminine and play hard to get, was so cliched and all Rules-ey. Take it from one who did the opposite – the Rules often fail miserably, especially when your guy has a brain!
  12. Swades: The heroine does math! Long division! The numerical kind, not the family-feud variety! She does it in her head!
    And, she’s the first to declare to her boyfriend that she loves him [2]. Blub.
  13. Chak De India. Despite the fact that the film used a male authority figure and therefore reinforced traditional lines of control and leadership, despite the fact that it reinforced regional stereotypes and prejudices, despite the fact that it was marginally homophobic, despite the fact that it didn’t even examine class barriers, and despite the fact that almost all the characters save Shah Rukh’s were uni-dimensional, Chak De nevertheless was a ground-breaking movie. It showed that women could legitimately have outside interests, that women didn’t need to be either doormats or angry mis-fits, that women could play sports, that women could compete and be petty but still make up and fight/play together for the team, that women could be stunningly pretty and feminine and still be good sportspersons, that women could be conventionally ugly and ‘masculine’ and still be good sportspersons, that women could be boring-looking and still be good sportspersons, that women could legitimately express themselves with violence in public, that the various mediums of physical expression were still available to women (see this post and this one). And of course, it showed us (after Swades) that Shah Rukh Khan can actually act. Which is a feat in itself.

So, anyway, there’s my starting list. I’m sure I’ll add to this in time, too. Yay for Bollywood!

[1] sorry! 🙂

[2]Oh, and the best part – P openly gushed when her saw her do that. How I love my guy. 🙂