Sheer Melody

A mole's eye-view of the Cosmos

Wikimapia hurrah

Wikipedia now has a zoomed-in version of Kolkata. And I found a lot of things - including my school and my home... Yippee for that! Here are the photos:

This is the air-view of St. James' school with Pratt Memorial School just beside. Pratt Memorial incidentally had some really pretty girls.

This is Animikha housing complex. The road by the complex is the new Rajarhat Bypass which has reduced commuting time to the airport by almost half. Nice road. Aquatica is just round the corner...

Two movies...

A few days back, I had an argument – rather, a very animated discussion with one of my friends regarding the state of Bollywood cinema. Frankly, I don’t hold Bollywood in extremely high esteem with its high-brow performances and lack of subtlety; and relish any argument on the same. In the course of the discussion, and several other related discussions I have had with people – I have found this retort a common one – “What about Black and Rang de Basanti?

I have watched both these movies; in cinema theatres and liked neither. The only saving grace for Rang de Basanti was that it was bearable and the first half was quite engaging. Regarding, Black – it was one of the sloppiest pieces of film-making that one has ever seen.

Rang de Basanti starts well. In fact, everything seems fine up till the point of the plane crash, when suddenly the movie changes tone and stops making any kind of sense whatsoever. There is no doubt that the movie is a cinematic venture of great courage and motivation – but the amount of sentimental and preposterous drivel that the second half dishes out ruins it totally. The first half is not perfect or extremely engaging either. The sepia-tinted drama in which the protagonists play parts of the fighters in the freedom struggle is clumsy and high-brow, to say the least. What surprises, astonishes and makes me cringe in disbelief is the manner in which the second half of the movie manages to stretch all boundaries of identifiable logic. Seriously, equating a lathi-charge to the Jalianwala Bagh massacre? It made no sense to me as I watched the movie – and makes even lesser sense right now – as I have had time to think and ponder on the director’s idea behind the simile. The stupidest part of the entire movie by far was storming the AIR building by Black Cat Commandoes. Again made no sense, and I was wondering if the government would resort to an army of over hundred commandoes to subdue (and later kill) a group of five to six young hot-headed people.

People have justified the movie, its action and the portrayal of its skewed image of justice and retribution by arguing that it’s a piece of fiction and should not be taken seriously. What I find tough to swallow in this piece of argument is how could a movie which is meant to awaken a generation resort to such meaningless tripe to get its message across. Frankly, if the movie was so honest about the fictitiousness of its characters and the total innocence of its plot, I found no need in the director and producers to advertise it as a message to the youth of today. The bottom-line remains, that if you kill, murder or hurt a person or a group of persons, expect retaliation in equivalent forms of violence. The glorification of taking the law into one’s own hands, and the subtle backing which it provides to a violent uprising in the youth against the politics of today doesn’t necessarily signify a great piece of movie-making. The fake show of patriotism all through the length of the movie doesn’t impress and make the experience any better.

Making a politically motivated movie is not an easy task and Rakesh Mehra, quite simply has made a mess of the whole thing. Rang de Basanti has been lauded everywhere as a supreme achievement in Indian film-making, however its contrived storyline on top of a lackluster plot prodding you all through the movie to rise and make a difference fails to impress. I meant, impress me… What stand out however are the rather distinctly original performances from all the lead actors and extremely well-done music… If I were asked to name one saving grace of the movie – it would have to be Rehman’s impeccable tune-making skills…

Regarding Black, I found the movie depressing, full of unduly over-rated theatrical gimmicks. To be quite frank, I don’t like a movie which is so dialogue dependant, and music dependant that one loses track of the screenplay. Black has little or none of it. The movie has its good points, nice color, and beautiful scenery; but again – I would have watched National Geographic for the same thing with a more fulfilling and satisfying result… The point I am trying to make is simple; when I watch a movie; I don’t want it to portray dialogues as the saving grace when the point it is trying to make is something totally different – in this case – the emergence of a child as an understanding woman in-spite of her blindness. I don’t want the movie to try and impress me with its soundtrack when it falls flat in trying to show emotion or evoke emotion in the audience. And a movie is meant to be short and thought-provoking; of which Black was none… Dragging on for the best part of three hours, the movie evokes nothing – neither emotion, nor sentiment, not even a bit of thought. And people have hailed it as a masterpiece – a landmark Indian movie. Sorry to say – but I find it at the bottom of the ladder as far as masterful, insightful and great movies are concerned!!!


Yesterday went well. I finally got to watch Charulata. The last I remember of this movie was watching it in a packed hall in Bhubaneswar, and understanding nothing. Age makes the man wiser, and I realized and appreciated the movie in all its vitality and subtle imagery. Most importantly, I realized what good filmmaking is all about…

This was one movie, when pressed; Ray would have chosen to be his best and most perfect film. Ray is believed to have said, that given a chance to remake all his movies, he would not be making a single cut/change in this movie. Like all Ray movies, much of the imagery is in the screenplay and the cinematography; dialogues are at a minimum – and the acting and interplay of emotions fantastic.

Charulata is the story of a wealthy Bengali landowner, Bhupati Majumdar, his wife Charulata, much younger than him, lonely but sensitive and literary, and of Bhupati’s carefree college-going cousin Amal, who comes to stay in their household. Bhupati, a worshipper of English rationality and political ideas, is perpetually wrapped up in his political magazine and his wish and hopes to see the Liberals win in England to bestow sufficient attention and care on the lonely Charulata. Lost in this faraway world of political intrigue and machinations, Charulata’s loneliness takes abrupt turns, makes her whimsical and at some point in their interlinked but widely divergent lifestyles, she misses the comfort and care of a satisfying marital life. On the other hand, we have Amal, carefree, college-going, not a care in the world, who has literary ambitions of his own, but which are far-removed from his brothers political inclinations. Traditionally, the relationship of a dewar (thakurpo) is one of casual intimacy with a certain degree of license, and their relationship builds on this particular note with a common love for literature and poetry as the foundation. Extremely powerful are the moments in the garden, where Charu and Amal through the use of rhetoric and alliteration, coerce each other into literary efforts. Charu’s affection for Amal takes a different turn when she gives him a notebook and elicits a promise that whatever he wrote in that – would be only for her eyes and not for any publisher. Through a subtle play of words and images, eye-movements and sideward glances, Ray manages to convince us that there is a mild tension of a gradually building affection between these two individuals. Sex has always been underplayed in all Ray movies, and sexual tension has never been as underplayed as this!!! Despite his promise to Charu, Amal goes and gets his article published in a magazine of that time; leading to extreme heartbreak and jealousy on the part of Charu, who quite justly feels deprived by the unwanted intrusion of a foreign party into their closed literary circle.

At this point of time, the tone of the story changes from one of casual flirting and heightening sexual tension to one of household worries. Umapada, Charu’s brother departs with all their money, leaving them laden with debt and worries. Amal, not wanting to cause further harm and trouble in the already traumatized household, leaves suddenly, leaving Charulata grieving. Bhupati unexpectedly enters their bedroom and finds Charu weeping on the bed, leaving him shocked and speechless. It is at this point that Ray diverges quite a bit from the Tagore original. Whereas Tagore’s novella ended in a duple rejection on the part of both husband and wife where both of their paths could never meet again and were irreconcilable, Ray’s movie ends with a tinge of hope. As a debilitated Bhupati starts leaving the house, Charu asks him to stay; a servant holds a light up keeping it aloft, and Bhupati approaches Charu. Their hands stretch towards each other, their fingers approaching closer and closer. Just as they are about to touch, Ray freezes the shot. The movie ends in a brilliant series of five close shots – close-up of Charu’s face, somber but untroubled, one of Bhupati’s, anxious and grievous, a shot of the servant holding up the lamp, a mid-level shot of Charu and Bhupati with their arms outstretched, and finally a zoom-out as the words “Nashtanir” flicker on-to the screen…

Though the pace might be a bit slow for these troubled times, the movie is an artistic masterpiece. The musical score is an understated one but tremulous, with two extremely beautiful vocal interludes – with Kishore doing ample justice to the impeccable Tagore number Ami chini go chini. Madhabi Mukherjee gives one of her best performances as the tender, affectionate and slightly whimsical Charu. The shots of the day-dreaming wife as she rocks back and forth on a swing in the garden, stealing glances at her brother-in-law lying sprawled on the ground, is quite unforgettable. This, for me definitely stands out as one of his greatest creations… Nobody but he could have made it like he did – arranging every camera frame to convey poetry, nuance and expression like no other filmmaker could. It is as if a photographic film of images has been embroidered together on an exquisitely beautiful mosaic of moving images.

This was just another movie which made me realize that it would take years before a filmmaker of his stature is produced again…

The phenomenon called Himesh

Hmm… So more of or orkutting over the last few days. I have realized much to my chagrin that there for all the numerous hate-clubs of Himesh Reshmiyaa, there are an equal number of fan clubs. Which again brings me to wonder, that tastes do differ, but what kind of a taste makes you appreciate the stuff Himesh-ji dishes out.



Ballad for a friend

One more of those songs with lyrics to blow your mind...

Sad I'm sittin' on the railroad track,
Watchin' that old smokestack.
Train is a-leavin' bit it won't be back.

Years ago we hung around,
Watchin' trains roll through the town.
Now that train is a-graveyard bound.

Where we go up in that North Country,
Lakes and streams and mines so free,
I had no better friend than he.

Something happened to him that day,
I thought I heard a stranger say,
I hung my head and stole away.

A diesel truck was rollin' slow,
Pullin' down a heavy load.
It left him on a Utah road.

They carried him back to his home town,
His mother cried, his sister moaned,
Listin' to them church bells tone.