Sunday, December 24, 2006

sometimes the nipples say more than the face

Susan Sarandon said: “I’ve never been comfortable with nudity on screen because nipples always upstage you. For the first 15 seconds, nobody is listening to what you’re saying.”

If you watch European cinema—I can vouch for French and Spanish at least—what comes across especially is the explicitness. In language, in visuals, in subjects. There’ll be movies with women, and men, roaming around naked without the motif being Viagra-esque. Their audiences have that taste. At least, I hope for that.

Back to Sarandon. When you’re showing flesh on screen, the objective is to show an aspect of the character that is being portrayed. But if the viewers don’t hear what the filmmaker wants to tell, what is the point? Is it because of this failure to communicate that moviemakers and scriptwriters shy away from absolutely realistic cinema? There’s a nine minute long rape sequence in Irréversible. That nausea just swells up inside.

And the question of selective nudity too. If the bare body is that of an attractive young woman, comfortable with her sexuality, it should precisely be because the script demands it. But, the naked body could also be that of a middle aged virago. Why isn’t that shown? Don’t such women exist? Or does the script ask for taut anatomies in working condition? Get an old hag to strip and let her act her skin off and then see the movie for what it’s worth. I can hear this coming: Dude, you wouldn’t want to watch it. Well, I also am not particularly interested in paying to watch women raped or people slash and cut each other up. But then, I do that. We all do that.

Remember that scene in Fire when Mundu masturbates before Biji. How ironic--and fascinating--that a woman director canned that. And, as an entity, we’re the largest movie watching populace in the world.

And how do our films excite our female audiences? What do our actors do for them? There's a big mismatch somewhere.

A huge chunk of India's mainstream cinema is meant for titillation of the family in the living room. In the cheapest way that embarasses both father and son, and if you've a large enough family, both grandpa and dad.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

the big strip tease

Living off jobs which didn’t interfere
With their primary interest—perfect gratification
Unfeeling voyeurs rose from their chairs

It was the big strip tease
Taken off, sliding down satin legs, thrown off a now bare torso
Items of societal dignity

The audience, whistling and hooting
In cahoots
Fate in open connivance with the living

What they desired,
The law-abiding quotidian,
Their loins ached for
That bit of flesh—ravishing, succulent

He sulked in his chair
Glug, glug the pegs burnt
The lampshades turned upside down
The existences murky

Desires flitted like bluebottles
Imagination begot dirty wings
The untouchable was here
In the face

Yet now, he thought
Her mystery hidden in a hutch
She invited more

The face, it had to be
The false bravado
The surety
Where did it come from?

She was there,
Glowing naked as a bulb
Yet she wasn’t bare

What the madhouse couldn’t hide
The flesh couldn't show
That mask on her face
That isolation
What did she feel?

How does one feel?
In a place where men are so true
For her to melt into an aphrodisiac

Thursday, December 07, 2006

prizes in knotholes

A few days ago I ate Bombay duck, a fish dish (no ducks!), for the first time. Imagine my glee then when I read about it in ‘The Inheritance of Loss’. Haven’t you ever felt this way— the joy of reading about something you’ve experienced personally, with the memory of it still crisp? And then I was awash with the same thrill all over again when I read about Kalimpong and Teesta in the book. Wow! I remembered the chill, the inundated noodles for 25 bucks, the smoke-breath, the icicles, the rapids. Crimson throbbed in my veins again.


The urge to write, at times, is like a driving demand of a child; you’ve to attend to it and worse, or better, you can’t discipline it. On such occasions, when this craving takes you over, the need to satiate it in a respectful magnitude looms like the physical immediacy of a new spouse. Always there, in your face. Irresistible. I want that passion back in my life again; rather, I want to get to live it again. Last evening, I tossed around wistfully, recompensing for travails, navigating through dusted alleys, clinging to a past treasure, wanting to lay my hands on the loot again. I want to resume my visitations. Into minds of siblings, into torn families, through a pin hole in old asbestos, to a single patch of light on a dappled floor, to prizes hidden in knotholes. This inheritance cannot be whittled down. At all.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

to bombay

Imagine entering or being pushed inside a jam-packed compartment —your feet almost dangling in air, your body (not even the skeleton is spared) contorted in shapes unimaginable, inexorable forces moving up and down your shape. Inside, the crowd is bristled up by a motive not grander than reaching their everyday destination—office or home—but as urgent nevertheless. The invaders—you—are welcomed by pushes, shoves, and gropes; cries of andar, andar fill the air that has been stifled between and beneath tumultuous bodies. And after much warfare, when you do acquire a foothold on a patch that has not been annexed by another sole and as you struggle to keep a clammy hand hinged onto something, you’re treated to extraordinary sights: comrades nestled cosily, shuffling a pack of worn-out cards, a gentleman reading ‘Kasturba: a life’, or a group chorusing Marathi songs.

And imagine going through almost all of this all over again, twice a day, everyday, for days and days.

Bombay takes you by the scruff, turns you over, and shakes the last ounce of you from your piggybank. The experience is exhilarating, disgusting, exacting, refreshing—all at once. Two nights ago, at 1130, I saw one having a haircut, and one giving it too! When the narrators in Bollywood flicks say ‘the city never sleeps’ this is what they mean.

The contrast of India cannot possibly hit you harder anywhere but here. My office, in central, posh Lokhandwala, is opposite a string of huge malls but adjacent to a line of jhuggis and chawls. While there are coumtless eateries nearby, the streets are lined with makeshift huts that dole out lunches at dirt-cheap prices.

And public transport is the greatest leveler. Classless commutes. Everyone travels (rather has to) by local train or bus. The hottest chick to the oldest uncle, to the loudest mawaali, to the most straitjacketed buzurg.

Today, as I got down at the bus stop near my office, I saw Hrithik’s bare chest shouting out loud from a giant poster. I couldn’t help grimace. That instant, nothing was further from truth, from reality. After a bus-train-bus ride of almost one and a half hour, after the jostling and huffing and puffing nothing was more absurd. I think that’s why people are so passionate about movies—to escape a harsh, shared reality. To saunter in a place so unimaginable that it refuses to acknowledge their depressing and exhausting truth.

There’re a hundred things to write about. But I’ll give myself time to sauté them, then deep fry and relish them.