Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Siddhartha: Hesse’s vs. Rooks’s


Honestly speaking, it’s only unfair to compare the two because Rooks’s version wouldn’t have been possible without Hesse’s legendary piece in literature. Being entirely based on Hesse’s Siddhartha, Rooks’s appears like a terrible mistake. And ‘why,’ you ask ‘why would someone want to flounder with an idea as great as that?’ Well, Rooks cannot be blamed, after all, a film is only a medium of expression, what all it can evolve into, is a different story. Rooks’s film is almost like an act of asking people to go read the book. I would have done the same had I been a film maker; I am doing the same, being a blogger.
Guys, go read the book.

The book:
Someone, who himself leads a life of a modern age shramana, a wandering ascetic (at least fits the “I can think, I can wait, I can fast” bill), once explained the concept of grace to me.
“Grace, started as a Christian word/concept, ceased to be used solely for young women with time, went on to bag a new meaning”. I interrupted “Yeah, Words can acquire a life of their own.” He continued “True. Grace, you see, has nothing to do with intelligence, patience or kindness. It’s almost like your soul glows and it becomes visible to others” on this I questioned, “Is it like, you have it because you were born with it?” And he said” No, not necessarily, there can be a case where a young reckless lad in his 20’s is not even remotely graceful but when he reaches 50, he has grace, as something that suddenly came about, almost like an accident or something that seeped inside him over the years. Though it cannot be acquired, achieved or attained, but it certainly can be found. Like a rare rose in the tropical summer. The whole concept of salvation, is nothing but this, stop searching or you will miss the obvious.”

Grace is what it is, immanent in the book and absent in the film, and the reason for the film’s driftage from the notion of Siddhartha, the book has voiced out rather beautifully. Hesse's novella Siddhartha: Eine indische Dichtung (Siddhartha: An Indian Poetic Work) is not just a book, it’s a journey, it becomes a part of you, grows inside you, questions you, absorbs you, leaves you, kills you and eventually gives you a rebirth. Well, almost.

Narcissus and the Goldmund got Hesse his Noble. But Siddhartha is something else; beyond all comparisons, no doubt statistics crown Siddhartha as ‘his most popular work’. The book, originally written in German, first published in 1922, is considered by some, as the pinnacle of his fascination with orientalism. There is a Siddhartha in every one of us, the restless young mind that is more than eager to find THE path, to decode the meaning of religions, search for self knowledge and divine within, of what Hesse termed the Weg nach Innen; the inward journey. He’s somebody who gets sick and tired of this “well upholstered hell” every once in a while. Know him?
Because religion is not about holy books, idol worship, sacred chants it’s not even about meditation and spiritual debates. Religion is a man’s own journey, and only he will tread it. It’s not necessary to worship god, he only has to be acknowledged to be able to look beyond the comedy and tragedy of the events, because the comedy of all things is that they are serious.

An excerpt:
Siddhartha bent down and lifted a stone from the ground and held it in his hand. “This” he said, handling it, “is a stone, and within a certain length of time it will perhaps be soil and from the soil it will become plant, animal or man. Previously I should have said: this stone is just a stone; it has no value it belongs to the world of maya, but perhaps within the cycle of change it can also become man and spirit, it is also of importance. This is what I should have thought. But, now I think: this stone is stone; it is also animal, god and Buddha. I do not respect and love it because it is one thing and will become something else, but because it has already long been everything and always is everything.”

The film:
In a bookstore close to my house hangs a board which reads “Read it before Hollywood kills it”. I needn’t say more. Although, this one’s not as big a disappointment as others have proved to be. In fact Rooks’s is a visual delight, almost like a poetry and all credit goes to the cinematographer, Sven Nykvist.

Sven Nykvist's cinematography is the THING.
It’s amazing to see how someone from faraway Sweden is able to capture the Indian riparian forests, river banks and the streams on the camera so exquisitely well. The river, "on screen" gave a whole new meaning to the film, a tableau of Siddhartha’s life, at times sounding more pleasant than his saintly verses, can be perceived to be the narrator of the story. These cleverly edited scenes that made the river look so prepossessing have done complete justice to the description of river in the book. The rivers are all about life and this is what makes the books about rivers so attractive, because the good one’s cannot be just about the river, which is the ostensible subject, they have to deal with the life in the settlements around it and the stories they spin.

Shashi Kapoor as Siddhartha outdid himself. Class act!
The heart renting scene where his son abandons him is worth more than a zillion bollywood films of his. It was a refreshing surprise to see him act so well, but then again , Hesse’s Siddhartha had set such high standards that neither Shashi nor Rooks could reach. Also, he (and in fact all the actors in the film) could’ve done Conrad a big favor by letting go of his accent. Similarly, he could’ve shed those extra pounds before jumping into the film; it feels a little crappy to see Siddhartha, who boasts of being able to fast, with that proud belly of his showing from the folds of the robe that was donned in the efforts of covering it up.

Likewise the actor posing as govinda, a saintly Brahmin boy, didn’t bother to shave off his extra long sideburns (pretty good ones, gotta say, his girl and Elvis Presley would’ve been so proud of them). Period films are about detailing, these trifle bloopers can be easily given a pass, all right. But, they can make a film loose its essence. Now, that’s no trifle at all.

Otherwise, the casting is near perfect, Garewal as kamala, epitomizes beauty, that it can be something to be worshipped, momentarily though. The lady knows some acting as well, icing on the cake! The role of the ferryman, played by Zul vellani is a wonderful one, not only because the screenplay accommodates it respectfully but because of the indelible discernment he brings to the characterization, one so well-realized, that of an old wise man. Some times it felt that he was a bit overdressed for a poor ferryman, but considering the film was shot in Rishikesh that became necessary or the actors could have frozen their asses in those Himalayan mornings.

As for Mr. Rooks, he could do better. We loved his chappaqua (and loved him in chappaqua). Siddharta too, is a respectable endeavor; the only time it fails is when it gets compared to the book. The characters become very verbose at times. The dialogue between siddharta and kamalaswami has been turned into a rant rather than a simple conversation on the dinner table. Capturing the shramanas on camera was a task very well undertaken. Pictured deeply intoxicated (amidst clouds of marijuana and bhakti ) whiling their time away in this sansara by singing the bhajans, clamorously, in an attempt to attain nirvana . What is Bhakti to them is dismissed as an act of fooling oneself by Siddhartha, who refers to them as nothing but escapists.

The music could be slightly better too, “nodire” is a decent song, but there really wasn't a need to fit-in a Bengali song in a film that has nothing to do with Bengal. I wish there was some tribal kumauon piece or some Rajasthani folk music (the film’s actually shot in the princely state of Bharatpur). Also, the humming, that the film opens with, sounds like an adaptation of a cheesy mujra song and prolly it is! Who knows! Conrad Rooks could have never figured it.

Should my combined disappointment and dispassionate admiration be considered a complex thumbs-up? Well, maybe. Okay, enough said and I should seriously stop picking at Rooks’s efforts, it isn’t a bad film at all, in fact the book and the movie both are worth giving time and thought to. I suggest read the book first, grab the DVD months later, or else you’ll get busy comparing them and miss the entire point, the idea of Siddharta. That’s the last thing we’d want to happen because it has already suffered more than its due share in our busy yet prisoned lives. Because honestly, the film is a disaster when it comes to story telling, it only makes you curious about the book and makes you reread it but still, needs to be viewed for its leisurely pace and its stunning photography.

Read it, to experience it because Siddhartha is beyond a book, beyond a film “it’s a sanctuary to which one can retreat to anytime, a sanctuary within.”


Friday, May 1, 2009

Satyajit Ray : an expedition

I remember very clearly when I first saw him on TV, in an interview and have some moments etched in my memory. A very handsome, towering 6.4” in his 50s and a proud owner of a strapping physique.This was contrary to the image I cultivated in my mind, that of a short, plump, specky Bengali. With those looks he could have done equally well as an actor, but he was no actor, he was a realisateur: a director and no ordinary one at that,he was the finest India ever had. Not to say that his looks did'nt make me a fan, I was already one, long before I saw him on TV, when I read Feluda during my school days.

Feluda: the sleuth that dominated Sandesh (his family magazine) for decades was inspired by Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is classic, legendary, more popular. True. But Feluda is dearer and so are the stories, for a number of reasons. Foremost being the fact that the stories are set in the Indian scenario, places like "bhul bhulaiya" in "badshah ri angti" and the jaisalmer fort in the "sonar kella" are the ones we are acquainted with and even today they beautifully bring back the nostalgia of those summer vacations that were a part of my up bringing. Also, because I could relate to the narrator Topshe(Feluda’s cousin). I was his age when I picked up Feluda. But Feluda is only one of the not so famous works of this very famous film maker.

Born in a family of notable writers, illustrators and philosophers, Ray was a blessed child. Although he lost his father at the tender age of 3, but if the gene theory is to be believed then Ray was born a “thinking” man .His family lived on a meager income of his mother but an extremely rich philosophical environment.
Ray studied economics at the Presidency College, Calcutta. I am told that even back then St. Xavier’s, Calcutta and St. Stephens, Delhi had a greater brand value but "prezy" had its own charm , I’d like to believe it .After finishing college he went on to study Arts at the Shantiniketan but before he could finish the five year long course , he ran away . He’s known to have juggled many jobs, but his stint as an illustrator in the pre film making period of his life is most remembered.

Ray never studied film making. In fact most of the great film makers, ones who were able to raise the bench mark for their contemporaries, never did go to the film school. The paradox is reciprocated in the fact that the great film schools like the one in our own country were not able to deliver the likes of Ray. This, we know, is a part of the greater polemic that questions the existence of these institutions.

Many of his films have women playing central roles (maybe because the feminist films/novels had become a part of the Zeitgeist then) and all of them pleasantly occupied the screen with a credible degree of grace (now, that wouldn’t have been so difficult because all women have grace, whether they're from some far off tribe in Africa or a slum in Mumbai , for whatever small amounts, as a result of being passed in the womb to the girl child or probably they're brought up this way, grace comes naturally to women) and this, what is natural to them was beautifully captured by Ray .So what if she is a slut who has dangerous liaisons or even crushes that would endanger her institutional marriage , Ray managed to bring out the quintessential grace that dons women, Charulata comes to one’s mind.

Picture of Pather Panchali script
(C) copyright of the Ray family

Ray did most of the work revolving around the film making business by himself, the screenplay, cinematography, designing the credits, even music at times, saved him a lot of money in the process (something that came handy for his daring, off-beat cinema, for which funds didn’t trickle down easily). Talking about his scripts, being very richly illustrated they sure are something to look at! Some of the illustrations went on to become the exact scenes in his films. Ray, no doubt is a hell of an inspiration for the film makers across the globe but two of his characteristic qualities clearly stand out, his patience and his consistency in the quality of the work he delivered. Lets take them one at a time. Ray, a typical taurian, had an amazing capacity for calmly enduring difficult situations without giving up. A special mention of this particular incident from the filming of pather panchali: it was when Ray shot the scene where train is discovered by Apu and his sister Durga in the field of Kaash flowers' but was unable to finish it the same day. The following day when they returned to shoot, to their horror they discovered that the Kaash flowers had been feasted upon by a herd of cattle. He had to wait for the next season of flowers to complete the scene.
Consistency: How ray managed to maintain (even elevate) his own standards is quite impressive. Many of his aficionados believe his later films are better than the Apu Trilogy era. (Exclude Ganashatru, Shakha Prashakha and Agantuk, that were filmed during the time when Ray was practically bed ridden, these were the films that were very heavy on the dialogues with most of the shooting happening indoors, so very not Ray)

Illustrations of some scenes
(C) copyright of the Ray family

A deserved admiration is a responsibility, an undeserved one is precious. With every masterpiece that Ray produced, came a heavy load of expectations, the hype can be unbearable at times and kills the film even before it confronts the audience, but Ray being Ray, managed to pass this test.
We know Akira Kurosawa was not exaggerating when he declared “not to have seen cinema of ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon"

So, from being a typical general knowledge question in school "which Indian has won the academy award" to becoming a fan of Pradosh C.Mitter(Feluda) to be swayed in the glory of Ray's cinema and trying to understand the dream of liminality away from social custom that often evolves in them, Ray is an expedition, an "abhijan", a never ending one.

p.s. This article is a tribute to Ray, a personal one. (May, the 2nd happens to be Ray’s birth day).It does not claim to bring about anything new about him, which is practically impossible because so much has been written about the man already. This article, howsoever unfocussed it might seem, is about how I remember him. I can’t even try to mention his body of work that too in so many different fields. If I did then I might have to consider writing a book.

p.p.s.: Some of the pictures, where mentioned, are a copyright of the Ray family; they are being used here after seeking permission from Sandeep Ray, Ray’s only child and a prolific film maker.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

The stochastic variable

The stochastic variable, this is what my posting has become.
It feels nice to write again after a long while. (Not that I have not been posting, I think I have been regular this year, but recent posts were mere compilations of pictures and quotes)SO, unlike typical bloggers who are so jobless they write every day/week about anything from paper towels to Naruto to someone they hardly know, I have a life, and a credible amount of dignity. So what if my posts are sporadic. To me, blogging is a simple hobby, and not a full time occupation, or a claim to fame. It also feels nice to know that my readership has gone up somewhat exponentially, (Honestly speaking , I never expected it , I always thought
no one's ever going to read my blog, I mean why should anybody? I am no actor, writer, reality show winner etc... But then again, I thought what the heck, it's going to be my personal journal, so, be it. And since then my profile views have been increasing, 160 something, oh boy! Where did all these people come from?!) So, I take this moment to express my gratitude.

Watching people use facebook I can learn about herding sheep .
It, now occupies my free time and thoughts (usually pleasantly)... though I was never criticized for my limited pursuits, been into some serious painting ( my medium being oil on canvas, for most of my works , but I tried some acrylic too), clay modeling, editing a magazine, swimming , debates , writing , Indian classical music (I use this term quite loosely)..and lately blogging.Out of all these I think the last one is the least burdensome and demanding , all I have to do is sit and type . Ah, what a cushy job ! And like other hobbies , it too, loyally provides abundant nourishment to my mind, like a hearty meal. So, here I am.

In a last couple of months internet had become repulsive, thanks to the ever stupid social networking sites, I got sick and tired of them, so much so that I deleted my account twice from one such site. Out of so many negative things to point out (yeah I am pretty good at this one), this one undoubtedly stands out ... the UPDATES.
No, not my updates, but those from my friends (and some not so friendly muttonheads residing in my friend's list).
I mean, why will I ever want to know the results of "what Japanese name are you?" QUIZ... yeah u read it right ... and the results are something like ..."if you are a girl your name would be seito, if you are a boy it would be shoyite"... see, just how customized these quizes can be.. they don’t even bother about your gender ... and the fuck-up is... they want ME to know this precious bit about their lives!! .. Why, may i ask ? Wait,do you think it's gonna change my life? REALLY... do you?

Or for that matter "what animal are you" QUIZ.... err what?!!
NO, I don't want to know if you are a chimpanzee or a pig. Yes, but I DO want to know, when are you evolving into a sensible friend and come out of your mental numbness.

And as if this wasn’t enough some of them will "poke" me (or even better "super poke" me) ... and they expect me to poke them back... yes, they do expect ! and if u don’t do anything to them they will like to leave a scrap which essentially translates to "why are you not active on this account?" and I sometimes wish I could leave a scrap /wall post as a reply ..No dude I am not going to do such a thing, and I might as well ask you why did u do it in the first place I don't know if you are normally stupid or deliberately acting obtuse??

And after getting irritated, frustrated, peeved, annoyed, pissed... pallavi takes to blogging.
Blogging: quick and easy, and comes with stupidity proof shield.

Enter stage. Lights . Camera (readers), Action !

I came, I posted, I left.

Also, I think, I have reached a stage (chronologically), where I want to be heard, only(save me the unnecessary applications).
Now, what's great in that? Everybody wants to be heard...
Yeah, nothing great...but along with it I’d love to read some impressive blogs,write-ups by other bloggers, I also follow them( off and on, not regularly though )
Some of them, bloggers that is, are luminaries and some are ordinary people (like me) with extraordinary blogs, blogs that make me T-H-I-N-K.

so, happy blogging !


Thursday, March 12, 2009

God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying, "Ah!"


Why are there trees I never walk under but large and
melodious thoughts descend upon me?
- Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all.
- Ogden Nash, Song of the Open Road, 1933

All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair
The bees are stirring, birds are on the wing,
And Winter slumbering in the open air,
Wears on his smiling face a dream of spring."
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.
- Claude Monet

It is at the edge of a petal that love waits.
- William Carlos Williams

What a desolate place would be a world without a flower!
It would be a face without a smile, a feast without a welcome.
Are not flowers the stars of the earth, and are not our starts
the flowers of the heaven.
- A.J. Balfour

With a few flowers in my garden, half a dozen pictures
and some books, I live without envy.
- Lope de Vega

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

every (slum)dog has it's day ...and some have eight oscars ..

slumdog slumdog!!

millionaire millionaire!!

"Slumdog, which cost only $15 million (£8.7 million) to make, has already gone on to take $160 million (£117 million) at the box office worldwide and could double this sum after last night’s haul of eight Oscars, including Best Picture. It is likely to go on earning millions of dollars a year for decades to come, thanks to DVD sales, TV licensing, and revenues from internet streaming. "
- taken from times online

the movie in itself might be debatable( many indians, which includes me, disliked the way it pictured india) but ... profits speak the loudest !
did not like the film , but i am happy , even elated that it wom 8 oscars !! yay!!

here's an amazing review of the same..

this and that !

There's not enough hours in the day;
To say all that I want to say,
There's not enough days in the week;
And weeks go by quicker than drunks knock back liquor,
There's not enough weeks in the month;
To do all that needs to be done,
There's not enough months in the year;
And years disappear like the bubbles in my beer.

from Timestretched by The Divine Comedy

oh, yeah this on shelfari... after a loooong break i am again active on shelfari..glad , i'm back!

animal farm ..

“What makes animal farm a great master-piece is the UNIQUE "belief in the suspension of your disbelief", if you know what i mean ...

The bizzare idea of animals taking over the farm ,even taking for that matter (a fable it is .. true)

but, suddenly it all seems so meaningful, so close to reality when i see what's happening today in the world around us, in the parliament , in the U.N. and else where and i find myself mummering ...
"everybody is equal but some are more equal".

It IS one of the best satirical literature we have (yet)... i think it even dwarfs the efforts of Joseph Heller in "catch 22" (to an extent ).

George Orwell is the real napoleon ... he plays with our minds, brilliantly , and in doing so, sits back and mocks the very society he's a part of...

..but, we still we love him... don't we?

read my mind...

I know it in the way you never will...and i better get round to describing it to you .
the innate desire to free myself from the chains that tie me down , "the narrow domestic walls " (as Tagore wud say)
and at other times , listen(and contemplate) to that the perpetual din , which i keep ignoring , that which tells me to recognise myself with someone like me , to tie myself up with them .
in a bit .. when everything seems obscure , no definitions fit ,
in that search/delimma/confusion/perplexity..when no effable word can be produced
nobody else but me knows , what it is.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

krukenberg's tumor ..

what the **** !!

all these years, i thought krukenberg's tumor spreads by seeding .. but i was wrong !..blame the damn books( which incorporate little research in their text)..

anyways, it has hematological spread...which makes complete sense , because peritonium does'nt have cancer traces... (which in this case it should have)

but, why it selectively grows in the ovaries ??

P.S. Krukenberg's tumor as the first clinical manifestation of fibrolamellar hepatocarcinoma

P.P.S "There is some debate over the exact mechanism of metastasis of the tumour cells from the stomach, appendix or colon to the ovaries; classically it was thought that direct seeding across the abdominal cavity accounted for the spread of this tumor, but recently some researchers have suggested that lymphatic (i.e. through the lymph nodes), or haematogenous (i.e. through the blood) spread is more likely, as most of these tumours are found on the inside of the ovaries. Proponents of this theory cite the fact that metastases are never found in the omentum (the fatty apron which envelops the organs of the abdomen and lies between the stomach and ovaries), and that the tumor cells are found within the ovary and not growing inwards. However, this remains a controversy, as cases in Hong Kong always showed omental spread and peritoneal seedlings in patients with Krukenberg tumours.
Although a Krukenberg tumor is most commonly a metastasis from a gastric cancer (usually an adenocarcinoma), this is not always the case. Other tumours of the gastrointestinal tract (including, significantly, colon cancer) have been known to cause Krukenberg tumours, and recent case-reports of Krukenberg tumors originating from tumors of the tip of the appendix have appeared in the medical literature."

- taken from wikianswers.

Monday, January 19, 2009

15th jan ..delhi trip.
was fun !!
was a misery !!
was insightful !!
was lucky !!
P.S. i lost my bag at midway behror and i cant believe someone found it , i got it back !! this world is not completely out of good old men!

oh yeah , the weather, in case you hadn't noticed, is going nuts.