अनिल एकलव्य ⇔ Anil Eklavya

June 16, 2009

Walls have Fears

On walls live creatures
They don’t just have ears
They have eyes and they have teeth
And they sure don’t have tears

What adds to their terrors
Is that they can’t be easily seen
But you can feel their presence
If you are one of their victims

They can communicate with each other
With a system more sophisticated
Than that of elephants or whales
It’s so sophisticated that only
Intelligent Design can explain them

They have concrete manifestations
But they are mostly abstract
No wonder so is their food
They don’t eat your meat
They eat your lives and your work and your protestations

You can be safe from them if you want
It’s all a matter of belief and loyalty and obedience
As it has always been through the ages
With other kinds of fearsome creatures

The question is whether you accept
The benevolent supremacy of the Intelligent Designer
Who put them there to watch over you

Just believe and abide and salvation can be yours
Don’t and you, with your work and your life
Can be completely mucked up, inside and outdoors

January 1, 2009

An Ode to the Night

During day you can march with someone’s team
During day you can ignore someone’s screams

At night you can read and you can cook
If you are hungry and you have a book
If you have been given luck’s happy look
And are not one of the completely forsook

At night you can’t avoid being alone
If you march, you have to do it on your own

Day is the time to fight for the chance
Night is the time to sing and dance
But you can take a different stance
And prefer night to take on the chance

Day is for some who have been accepted
Night is one refuge for all the rejected

Night is when the power’s evil agent calls
Night is also when the time seems to stall
Night is the time to catch up with the rest
Night is when you can put ideas to the test

Day is conformity, unheard cries and commitment
Night is commitment, preserved cries and conformity

Day is when the life all around lives loudly
Day is also when you can show off proudly
The cover of the rotten core of your soul
The toll that you take on History’s scroll

Night is the known ignorance of the unknown
Day is the unknown ignorance of the known

Day reigns with all the power of the sun
Allied with the power of the sun’s civilization
Night has the inconsistent support of the moon
Backed up by the romantic weak starry swoons

Of course night can be terrifying too
But it usually leaves you to be you

 

[2009]

June 27, 2008

Evolution Doesn’t Like Music

 

 

But we do.

 

 

May 6, 2008

Mr. Harvey, I Presume

I have been wondering for a long time who it is that keeps pitching in with some (written) comments (in italics) in the middle of my blog posts. The fact that I usually ignore him doesn’t seem to have affected him.

The consolation is that at least someone is reading what I write.

But still, I wanted to know who it is. And I think I might have the answer now, after watching the movie ‘Harvey‘ starring James Stewart, an actor with one of the most likable screen presences. He doesn’t play Harvey, by the way, he plays a person (Elwood P. Dowd) who was “oh so smart” till he was thirty five, but who recommends oh so “pleasant. And you may quote me.” after that, in the company of an invisible friend called Harvey, who is a six feet three and a half inches tall rabbit, visible only to Dowd, but occasionally also to his sister, and finally even to the top Doctor of the ‘sanatorium’.

At the end of the movie, he (Dowd) is saved from being given a serum that will “stop him seeing the rabbit”. He is saved by the mouthing of the experiences of a cab driver who warns Dowd’s sister, who wanted him cured so that she and her daughter could have a social life, which is denied to them due to the craziness of her brother. The cab driver says that Elwood will become “just a normal human being. And you know what stinkers they are.”

A lot goes on, obviously, between the beginning and the end of the movie. But I am not going to talk about that right now.

Self indulgence! I, I, me, me, my, oh, my!

So what I thought after seeing the movie was that perhaps this commenter-in-italics is Harvey. Not the same Harvey, of course. A great deal of water has disappeared from the rivers of this planet since that movie was made. The political and other maps have changed a lot. The Big Weapons have spread around some more. Newer kinds of wars have been invented and still newer may be on their way. Lots of us are working hard towards that. More jungles have been cleared for the onward march of the civilization. ‘Battlegrounds’ is now an insufficient term as real battles with weapons can now be fought far above the grounds, up among the stars. People have become much more polite and they now know how to be racist, sexist, fundamentalist, Fascist etc. without saying any bad words. So the progress goes on.

Naturally, then, the Harvey that is appearing on my blog is a different version. He’s is not even similar to the one that was seen in Donnie Darko. He seems to be of a post-modern (or perhaps a post-post-modern) variety.

I must confess that I don’t like this Harvey as much as Dowd liked that Harvey. But there he is. And I have to bear with him.

As I said, at least someone is reading and even commenting. So I dedicate this post to the post-modern Harvey.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to my not-friend, Mr Harv…

Quick! Someone call the sanatorium!

May 3, 2008

Evolution Doesn’t Have Nuclear Weapons

 

 

But we do.

 

 

April 26, 2008

A Tryst with the Soul of Paris (1)

As I promised, I am going to write about the movie ‘La Môme’, also known as ‘La Vie en Rose’ (‘The Life in the Pink’). The movie is about the legendary French popular singer Édith Piaf, real name Édith Giovanna Gassion, but earlier known as La Môme Piaf (The Little Sparrow).

For the last many weeks, I have been soaking myself in her songs. Not her alone, because I am never ever an exclusivist, but my playlist during this period has been almost half full of her songs. Or songs related to her, i.e., songs sung by her which were later also sung by others. As far as music is concerned, this has been one of the major obsessions so far. And it doesn’t look like I am going to get over it soon. I don’t mind it, of course.

I even found some notes and tunes familiar from Hindi film songs, which are the true melting pot of music like nothing else.

Did I say I will talk about it later?

Let it be said that I have listened to a very wide variety of music from around the world and claim to have a very good musical sense. So, now that you know about my qualifications for writing about her and the movie based on her (I guess you already know that I also claim to have a very good cinematic sense), I can get on and you better take me seriously.

Heh! Heh! Where is your degree?

First, I will say what has already been said by all. Marion Cotillard has given a great performance in this movie as the legendary singer. It’s hard for me to forget that she is not really Édith Piaf.

By the way, she became the first actor (or actress) to “ever win an Academy Award for Best Actress (“Oscar”) for a performance entirely in French”. Given that winning an Academy Award is considered the height of achievement for people working in the movies, doesn’t it sound a bit strange? I mean French directors (along with directors from other countries from Europe and Asia) have been making movies and setting the standards for others for a long time now and French actors have been acting in them. Well enough to deserve world class awards.

How easy it is to forget that the Oscars, the Academy Awards, are mainly meant for English movies. There is just one magnanimous (or guest, if you like) category for ‘Foreign language movies’. But everyone behaves as if the Academy Awards are equally for all movies of the world.

Can we expect globalization of the Academy Awards? I won’t bet on it.

Except that I have never bet.

The spell checker has identified ‘globalization’ as an invalid word. I am adding it to the dictionary. The spell checker also doesn’t recognize ‘exclusivist’ as a valid word. I am adding this word too.

I have heard the term ‘Artificial Intelligence’ somewhere. I also heard a rumor (rumour for the non-dominant party) that computers now have some of it. Why do I feel a bit relieved that it is just a rumor?

Coming back to the movie, it is about a singer who, as someone said, “belts them out, doesn’t she?”. She does indeed. And she does just great. I have become her lifetime admirer. For whatever is left.

She was a born singer. She started on the street. She was the daughter of an acrobat and a street singer. For some time she lived in a brothel managed by her grandmother, where she was treated very well. One of the prostitutes became so fond of her that she was heartbroken and hysterical when the father came back for his daughter. With her father, she (the singer to be) lived in a circus. Later she accompanied her father on his acrobatic (contortionist) street shows and started singing. Then she sang on the streets with her half-sister, who remained close to her till her death, except for some time when she felt ignored and abandoned by the star singer.

She was discovered by a nightclub owner. She was suspected of involvement in his murder, but was cleared. She denied that she had anything to do with that and I would prefer to believe that. I would rather give her the benefit of doubt than to Henry Kissinger. Or so many like him, even if not his equal in douchehood.

She sang under the protection of local mafia men, who took their share, obviously. She met a composer, Marguerite Monnot, who also became her ‘most loyal friend’ for the rest of her life. Then she was mentored by a composer who was also a poet and a businessman. She became popular on the radio as well as on the stage. She became a star. Actually, in France, she became a super star. She mentored many people and helped them launch their career. And ‘dropped’ them when they became successful and no longer needed her mentoring. She helped launch many careers, including that of another legendary singer Yves Montand. Jean Cocteau wrote a successful one-act play ‘Le Bel Indifférent’ specially for her and she acted in it.

She was severely injured in a major car accident. Then she suffered more car accidents. Partly because of injuries from the car crashes, she got into addiction and suffered more. She fell in love with a married French boxer (who was a star in his own right in France) …

Well, according to the ethics of movie reviewing, I shouldn’t divulge too much. Suffice it, as the phrase goes, to say that if there was anyone whose life was the stuff of legend, she was the one.

I would say even more than Howard Hughes.

So much about her, what about the movie? It is one of best biopics I have ever seen. It is better than ‘The Aviator’. It is better than ‘Capote’, even though I have more than a soft spot for movies made about writers or about literature. It is better even than ‘Gandhi’. More about that last movie later.

Now the reasons why it is better. First is simply that I like it more. But more specifically, everything is almost perfect in this biopic. Direction (Olivier Dahan) is really good without being pretentious or stiff. Screenplay (Isabelle Sobelman and Olivier Dahan) is as it should be for a biopic. Realistic but still interesting. Not over the top. Neither starry eyed, nor of the kind which seems to be declaring ‘I will (academically) judge this person’s personal life and cut him or her to size’.

Marion Cotillard actually became The Little Sparrow. I don’t know whether it was with or without Method Acting. The rest of the cast also gave very convincing performances, including the actress who played Marlene Dietrich. I should make special mention of Sylvie Testud who played the role of Mômone (Simone Berteaut), Édith’s half-sister and her lifelong friend. Her lifelong partner in mischief.

For now, I will stop talking about the movie here as I intend to write a second installment of this post.

I would be proud to have lived a life like the one she lived. With warts and all.

Even now, as I write, she is singing in the background. Literally.

In the words of the movie’s Marlene Dietrich, she is taking me on a voyage to Paris. Where (unlike Marlene Dietrich) I have never been, except for half an hour at the airport when I had to keep sitting in the plane as there was a strike at the airport. So I have yet to set my feet on the soil of Paris, but The Little Sparrow, who really belts them out and who embodies the soul of Paris, has flown me around there plenty of times now.

P.S.: The strike in the above paragraph doesn’t mean terrorist strike. It means labour strike. Just in case.

And yes, labor for the dominant party.

April 5, 2008

Screwball Horror

This movie is supposed to belong to a genre called ‘screwball comedy’. Well, there was some comedy in it, of a very black sort, which is fine with me because I like black comedy. It is the kind of comedy found in the real world in the most abundant quantity.

However, what I felt most while watching the movie, especially after the first twenty minutes or so, can only be described by the word ‘horror’. Screwball horror.

The movie I am talking about is called ‘His Girl Friday’. It is a story about an unbelievably unscrupulous newspaper man and another newspaper ‘man’ who is actually a woman and who was previously his wife and his primary reporter. His Girl Friday, as the title says. She is almost equally unscrupulous, but this we find out a bit later into the movie.

Since she is just a bit less unscrupulous than him, she got fed up at one point (before the movie starts) and divorced him to go and become ‘a human being’. At the start of the movie, she seems to be on the way and has found a human being (an insurance agent) to marry (who loves her) and comes to the office of her former husband to inform him of the news.

But her former husband has other designs. He is determined to not let her go. As we find out later, not because he ‘loves’ (whatever that means) her, but because she is too good a reporter (of the kind shown in the movie and of the kind often found in real life) to be let off and also because, as a person, she is of the same flock, and would have been much better off had she stayed married to the reporter.

As it happens, a man is going to be hanged the next day and there is great news capital that can be made out of that. The man happens to be a poor man who was fired after a long spell of loyal service, who started getting drunk and started attending some union meetings just because he had nothing else to do. Then something happened some day and he shot a cop. He says accidentally. The cop happened to be a colored man and the colored vote is important in the locality concerned. So, the governor doesn’t want to give him a reprieve as the elections are coming.

So far so good. But, as the reporter (editor? owner? all in one?) tries every trick in his morally anarchic bag, and after he has got his former wife to stay for a few hours (he has a plan) and interview the convict (which she does) for a great story, the convict escapes during his ‘psychoanalysis’ by a shrink from New York.

The Wikipedia page says this is where the fun begins. I don’t think the statement is accurate. Actually, this is where the little bit of fun (as I understand it) that was there ends and true horror begins.

I don’t have the patience (or the stomach) to describe everything that happens after this. We begin to really understand the distinction made by the screenplay writer between newspaper men and human beings (which a notice at the start of the movie indicates doesn’t apply in the ‘present’ times).

Basically, what we see is almost everyone (newspaper men, cops, politicians etc.) behaving like monsters, except that there is no (visible) blood and gore. Without batting an eyelid. Or bowling an eyelid for that matter.

The game of the hanging to be (which later becomes shooting to be) gets dirtier and dirtier, till we realize that the director is not just showing us a screwball comedy, or a satire, or a black comedy. We realize that the genre to which the movie belongs is that of the blood and the gore which flows thick through the stream of rapid fire dialog but is not directly visible to the eyes.

Because it is not directly visible to the eyes, some people (who don’t look at such things very hard as it might upset their constitution or their life) can understandably call the movie a screwball comedy.

The director has to be given credit for sticking with the idea throughout and not giving us a falsely feel good ending.

Almost all the characters in the movie, who all belong to a particular class, are not bothered, even superficially, by such trifles as deaths of human beings. Even when they might be causing it. They are not shaken even by the most moving emotional outbursts by one of the few ‘human beings’ in the movie who had talked kindly to the man to be hanged and is therefore branded a murderer’s girl friend.

So there is enough horror in the movie to make it feel more like amplified (albeit sanitized) ‘Clockwork Orange’ than, say, ‘Some Like it Hot’ or ‘It Happened One Night’.

But there is some more horror off the film. Like in the movie, this horror can also be seen in the trivia:

  • The director Howard Hawks, who could be perceived to be a closet commie (by many) in this movie, was known to make anti-semitic remarks. Ben Hecht, whose play was adapted for the movie, was Jewish and is known for his anti-Holocaust activism.
  • Rosalind Russell, who played the female lead (the newspaper ‘man’), hired her own writer to ‘punch up’ her dialogs to make them as good as that of Cary Grant, who played the male lead. Did she mean her dialogs were not as horror inducing as that of the Hero?
  • The man to be hanged is white (even if trash) and he had shot a colored cop. Not vice versa, which would be much more likely given the demographic and other statistics.
  • The fact that I mentioned earlier. That this movie is considered to be a screwball comedy. Not even a black comedy.
  • The corollary to the fact mentioned above. That horror can be mistaken for fun and enjoyed accordingly.

I won’t accuse the director for giving us some escapist fare. Not even of making a feel good movie.

Nor of making a comedy.

March 31, 2008

The Hemingway (or Pilar) Argument for Diversity

Innumerable arguments can be given in favor (favour for the non-dominant party) of diversity. That is, diversity of all kinds: cultural, ecological, linguistic etc. But in this post I present a particularly good one. It’s from Hemingway’s ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, which I am reading right now:

‘Then calm yourself. There is much time. What a day it is and how I am contented not to be in pine trees. You cannot imagine how one can tire of pine trees. Aren’t you tired of pines, guapa?’

‘I like them,’ the girl said.

‘What can you like about them?’

‘I like the odour and the feel of the needles under foot. I like the wind in the high trees and the creaking they make against each other.’

‘You like anything,’ Pilar said. ‘You are a gift to any man if you could cook a little better. But pine trees make a forest of boredom. Thou hadst never known a forest of beach, nor of oak, nor of chestnut. Those are forests. In such forests each tree differs and there is character and beauty. A forest of pine trees is boredom. What do you say, Inglés?’

‘I like them too.’

Pero, venga,’ Pilar said. ‘Two of you. So do I like pines, but we have been too long in these pines. Also, I am tired of the mountains. In mountains there are only two directions. Down and up and down leads only to the road and the towns of the Fascists.’

The forest analogy is good enough in itself, but I really liked the natural connection at the end between the lack of diversity and Fascism.

I don’t need to remind that diversity is fast eroding from every sphere of life. Even in India, the land of more diversity than perhaps any other. I also don’t need to remind that Fascism is rising in almost all regions of India, in various forms. Neither do I need to remind what is being used as a cover for rising Fascism. Yes, the T-word, which is sometimes equated to the M-word and sometimes to the N-word. With a lot of talk about the W-word.

There is no exaggeration here in the use of the F-word, although I do use the device of exaggeration sometimes.

And no, there are no mistakes in the language used in the quote due to my typing. This is just a mild example of how Hemingway represented Spanish speech in English.

March 30, 2008

Discovering Delightful Connections

I have been thinking about writing a post about what (at least one thing) to do when life seems unbearably depressive and you are in the grip of the EIM (Everything Is Meaningless) syndrome. When you feel that you can’t really believe in anyone or anything. Even the ‘best’ people start turning out to be unreasonably mean and nasty. And there seems to be no point in doing anything. Even waking up. Or eating.

By the way, psychologists would love to have this one more syndrome. Or have they already (gladly) got it?

I just came across something that reminded me of one such thing. I mean one of the things you can do at such EIM etc. times. And that is discovering delightful connections. I discovered one such connection.

A few days ago I had seen a movie (La Mome) about the legendary French popular (female) singer Edith Piaf. I will write about her later, but one of the things I learnt during my post-movie (re)search on the singer was that another legendary French popular (male) singer Yves Montand was discovered and mentored by Edith Piaf. He was also, for some time, her lover. Anyway, after seeing this movie, Edith Piaf became one of my favourite (favorite for the dominant party) singers.

Some months ago I had written about the director Costa Gavras and one of his movies called ‘Z’. This happens to be one of my favorite films. But I forgot who played the role of the assassinated (really) democratic leader in that movie. I am not very good at recognizing French (or other non-Indian and non-Hollywood) actors, though I have seen many many French films. Probably because they don’t have as strong a star system as Hollywood.

Today I (re)discovered that it was Yves Montand.

 

This is what I call a delightful connection.

One that can bring a smile on your face.

One that can make you recall that not all is meaningless.

One that can make you happy.

A little bit, if not much.

And make you Happily write a post again.

Etc.

(In case you are wondering, the use of a capital letter above is not arbitrary).

But there are one or two more connections that I would like to mention. At the end of the movie ‘Z’, when the military takes over the government, a list of things is announced which have been banned. The list goes something like this:

Peace movements, strikes, labor unions, long hair on men, The Beatles, other modern and popular music (“la musique populaire”), Sophocles, Leo Tolstoy, Aeschylus, writing that Socrates was homosexual, Eugène Ionesco, Jean-Paul Sartre, Anton Chekhov, Mark Twain, Samuel Beckett, the bar association, sociology, international encyclopedias, free press, and new math. Also banned is the letter Z, which was used as a symbolic reminder that Lambrakis and by extension the spirit of resistance lives (zi = “he (Lambrakis) lives”).

This list is from the Wikipedia page about ‘Z’, but I remember one more banned item from the movie: Pinter. The writer Harold Pinter.

Where are the connections? First, note the inclusion of popular music in the list. Second, ‘the spirit of resistance lives’ is used as a kind of a motto by the site ZNet (or ZMag) where articles (among other things) by a great many of the world’s intellectuals and activists are published.

The Hindi section of ZNet (still pretty small) was started by your’s truly. Another thing I found out today is that some of these translated articles have started making appearance on other (Hindi) sites and blogs.

Reason enough to smile. Even if the ‘best’ people are turning out to be (at least) mean and nasty and you feel EIM.

Does it sound somewhat Frank Capraesque (as in It’s a Wonderful Life)? No, I wouldn’t go that far.

A smile is enough.

March 26, 2008

Evolution Doesn’t Have a Conscience

 

 

But we do.

 

 

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