Saturday, 26 December 2015

Christmas 2015: Friends and Foes. The Sexual Harassment Battle Continues


Hello again. I have uploaded this video to just say that i am. It is sad that even in this digital age when i am trying to express myself using online media with which i am comfortable, i am being asked things like 'how do people know it's you who is talking?'. Well, it is me who is talking.

[P.S. Today one of my friends asked me to not appear happy. Just want to make clear that i don't want to cry or be with a sad face (the smirk is congenital). I may cry when i am alone in my room but never ever do i want my abuser to ever see me cry. I have survived. I won't cry.] 

I am writing this blog post to update on the developments that have happened after i came out as the complainant who lodged the complaint against a professor in SRFTI who forced me to have sex with him. On 25th December 2015, Sri, whom i used to consider a friend, a student from the same batch as i, called up a meeting of all girls of the institute. The messages were on the whatsapp group which is called SRFTI General Body of which i am a member too. She had given the link to my blog post and the report in TOI. Another male batchmate remarked in the group that the last line of the report was 'atrocious'.

Earlier in the mess when i was having food, on the table next to me a first year female student was talking about the report. She said that the earlier reports were fine but this time the news was 'gandi'. I would like to know how a report about a sexual assault is 'gandi'. Is it that she thinks that rape is something which can be called 'gandi' or is it that rape should not be reported at all because it is 'gandi'?

Well, in the meeting which happened on the terrace which people here call the ragging terrace Sri, who had convened the meeting said that all of them had a problem with the last line in the report which was a quote from the testimony that my friend Inji had given for me to the ICC.

She was scared her life will be ruined and that she also said it was considered a normal thing in her institute. She also said, women students who don't agree to sleep with their professors would be outcasted.

This is how it read. I will make some things clear about this here now.

A meeting has been held against a girl's sentence which spoke out that there was an atmosphere which was conducive for predators like the accused to have sexual relationships with students.

I had said this when i was trying hard to battle this man's manipulation and abuse. Even yesterday there were people who blamed me for not having spoken to anybody on campus about what i was going through. Now that the attitude of even the women's community in the institute regarding this matter is clear i shudder at the thought of how it would have been had i shared my problem with anyone in this institute.

There were students who said that people had already started asking them if they themselves had slept with some professor because that is what the statement implies. It is so ironical that nobody is realizing that there is an inherent problem with that question and that it is those who ask this question who should be questioned and not me.
Parents worried? They should be. If my parent knew that she was sending her daughter to a place where professors asked students for sexual favours she wouldn't have let me go perhaps. As long as there are criminals like these lurking on campus it is not safe for women to be students here. One day or the other when they abusers thought was the right moment students would be asked the questions i was asked by the professors. 'Why are we just talking and not kissing and having sex etc?', 'Have you read Disgrace by Coetzee?. Then you know what the story is, dear, I love you'. [Disgrace begins with the story of a professor who was suspended for having forced a student to have sex with him. Yes, i have read the book, and yes, this is what is called manipulation. Using a student's reading habit to speak about one's own perverseness].

There are going to be n number of articles. N number of reports. The girl students or any student can pick any line which they deem is hurting the reputation of the institute which they seem to be very worried about, in fact more worried than a girl who has suffered abuse, and deny those lines. That will not stop me from speaking out.

Why do i repeatedly say that the atmosphere is violent towards women and supporting sexual harassment? It is a pity that you have not understood it yet. I will elaborate nevertheless.

During the workshop which was held for my class by the professor against whom i have made the complaint, i was always expressing myself aloud in front of my classmates whom i considered friends. I now know that there were nothing close to friends. I used to exclaim how brilliant his classes were. It was immediately taken as 'i am willing to sleep with him'. Can you tell me where, in which institution, in which grammar book of the language english is 'i admire my teacher' equivalent to 'i want to have sex with him' or 'i am okay with anything he does to me'?
In the exercises that he made us do, often i was a model, along with other students in class as usual is the case when there are no others available. While reviewing those video clips in class the professor had made comments about my appearance. Of how he thought i was careless in applying kajal (kohl) and how it was smeared all over. Is this okay? I was sitting there in class and thinking why this was all made to look so normal. Nobody spoke a word. Everyone just laughed. I laughed along because hey, it was normal, right? That, my friends, is what is called atmosphere.
One day in class a classmate remarked to me, 'you are soon going to be his bulbul'. I couldn't make any sense out of it. I asked him what he meant. He exclaimed. 'You don't know bulbul?'. He told me how the professor had had a relationship with a senior girl student of the institute (i don't know the nature of the relationship) and how he used to call her bulbul. This classmate went on to tell me that however hard i tried i could 'never be his bulbul'. He had assumed that that was my mission. Remember? I liked his classes.
The professor himself once remarked to me, 'You know it's a really good thing that you are not from my department. (MPP). When i asked him why he said that he had been in a lot of trouble when 'he was with' the senior student i mentioned earlier. Is this enough to tell you all how casually a professor student relationship is viewed as something which can easily be anything it pleases? Sex, hanging out or 'relationship' or should i dig into the numerous other sexually coloured statements made in class by other professors as well?

In the meeting there was one gentleman whom i again used to think was my friend, who stood up to say how close he was to me. He said that my nature was to write about every small thing on my blog. He wondered why i had never written about this on my blog. Victim blaming is best nurtured in SRFTI. He also went ahead to say that he knew details about this 'relationship' and he knew that the details i had written in my blog were wrong.
Let me tell you once again. I had not spoken to a soul in this institute about what i was going through when it happened for the reasons i have already made clear. At this point i am even glad that i didn't do that in the light of the comments that are coming up. It was after a month of suffering abuse that i spoke to my friend Inji whose testimony has been made public already. It was in July 2015, when i became close friends with a classmate of mine that i told him what the professor had done to me. My ex lover knew about it and did not do a thing to help me and in fact asked me to go ahead with it without letting anyone know. That was one of the major reasons for my break up with him in the same June 2014 that i had let the professor know that i was never ever going to agree to having sex with him. Oh yeah, that was when he said that he wanted to have a threesome with me and my then boyfriend.
About blog posts, yes, my blog has always been my platform to express myself without inhibition right from the time i complained against ragging and was outcast. No, i never wrote about the professor's abuse except when i mentioned the time when i had given him a bookmark.

N and I became good friends post the workshop. I made a bookmark and gifted him in return for the mind blowing classes. The lines are his, from one of his poems.
This is what i had written about it. What didn't i write? That he had written that poem in a bar in Ajaynagar on a tissue paper saying that 'this will do to charm the socks off you'. That every time i spoke to him, every single moment when i was not being asked to have sex with him i wanted to make myself believe that it was all normal, like how people including you, mr ex-friend, forced me to believe. That was why Inji Pennu, had to talk to me for hours on end all the way from Miami, Florida to make me realize how much and how i had been abused by this man.

Well then, my friends here who are not my friends, two batchmates, a male and a female came to my room in the morning of 25th to express solidarity with me. They have not gone through the abuse i went through. They weren't at the hospital when i tried to kill myself. They hardly speak to me otherwise. They don't know the truth either. That's what everyone is worried about now, right? In the night, after the meeting two female students came to me and expressed solidarity. They too did not speak of any truth as far as i remember. These people coming and talking was the only reason i could sleep on christmas night. Oh yeah, i am entitled to christmas celebrations and all that too. May be that was why one of them gave me kheer and some mutton she cooked?

No, dears, i do not want you rushing to my room with even one word to say that you are with me. I know that you are not. Some of the students who spoke yesterday were people who have always publicly admired Jadavpur University and its politics. Well, when a girl student was sexually assaulted in JU, the whole campus took to streets. Here i am, abused and harassed by professors, police, institute, classmates, strangers, media, ex-friends etc in a room in the institute in which sometimes i feel scared thinking of where all this is going. More than that, however, i feel bad thinking of all of you who do not seem to understand that you are being abused by the system and its power. The day it strikes you it's going to be scary. It's okay. I will understand.

Update: Was forced to leave the group called SRFTI General Body due to repeated harassment from students including members of the student general body. Was however deeply inspired when i saw this post by Nishtha Jain on facebook. I would like to repeat and quote her.

The fact is that most women don't even realize that they are being sexually assaulted or coerced, they take it in their 'stride'. Most women don't report and that's actually a disservice to other women.

Glad that she has also mentioned crimes like ragging against which i had protested twice in the institute and became an outcast for the longest time. Even today Sri told me that nobody stood with me during ragging because i was the only person who had a problem with it. Well looks like i am the only person who has a problem with a lot of things which are crimes, eh? 

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Eve: Police

I am coming out as one of the complainants in the sexual harassment battle at SRFTI (Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute), Kolkata. My name is Kunjila. It is my online handle and i have been using it for over four years now. People may know who i am, but that's the name i am going to use and going to be addressed by.

It was in early December that i approached the dean of the institute to share my worries regarding my Playback project. The edit of the project was pending and i wanted to have a talk with him on a personal level as a person i trusted here. I did not want to continue with my student editor and i had given him all the reasons for it in writing earlier. Decision had been taken without my knowledge and it was against me. This time when i went i wanted to let him know that the matter was quite serious, that i was in fact feeling threatened by the student. I was really disappointed with the reply he gave me. I realized that my institute was a very bad place for a woman to have got sexually harassed. Then it all came back to me. All the abuse that i had undergone silently, without letting even a person in the institute know, without daring to speak out. It was high time i did, and i wanted a platform.

I approached the director of the institute with a letter asking him to kindly set up a sexual harassment wing in the institute. To my surprise he told me that it already had one. I learned that all government educational institutions were supposed to have one. I requested him to quickly revive the committee because i was sure that like me, most students had no knowledge of its existence.

A day later, a meeting was summoned by the chairperson of the committee called the Internal Complaints Committee(ICC), Ms. Putul Mehmood, who is a professor here. She summoned all the girls of the institute and asked us to share our problems, if any. A flurry of verbal complaints were made to my own surprise at the meeting. I realized that all that was lacking till then was such a platform. The complaints were many and serious and outrageous. The kind of harassment that was happening in the institute had to be stopped quickly.

Some girls were willing to make signed complaints. I myself made three. About two professors and a student. Following multiple complaints including mine in three or four days' time three professors were suspended. You can read about it here.

I am writing this after the committee's submission of preliminary report. The institute acted upon one of my complaints because they found it to be extremely serious. They forwarded the complaint to the police. On the night of 23rd December 2015, i was caught unaware when the hostel warden called me up and said that the police were at the gate asking for me.

The police's and the institute's combined insensitivity resulted in a tense night. Not only was i not informed about the arrival of police but was also subjected to harassment by them. There was one lady officer and two male officers. Only one spoke English. The lady officer did not even speak Hindi so it was impossible for me to communicate with her. I said that i was not prepared to give a testimony because i was unaware that the police would be approached and that i had to seek advice from some people. I approached the chairperson of the ICC, Ms. Putul Mehmood. She tried to understand what it was about by trying to get in touch with the registrar who had signed the letter which was forwarded to the police. Conveniently enough, it was switched off. She accompanied me to the main gate where the police were waiting. I asked them to give me time till the next morning. I wanted to talk to my friends who knew about the complaint to make sure that it was the right decision. I needed some support and preparation as well. The male police officer was jumpy and was shouting most of the time. He iced his behaviour by asking me if i could give him my rapist's number. I asked him to return with a lady police officer who spoke English and to speak sensibly to me. Putul ma'am asked the security guards to kindly leave the room for some time. Till then the police officer was talking to me taking names and describing contents of the complaint in front of them all!

After talking to Putul ma'am, Amitabh sir and my friends, that night i decided that i would go ahead with the police complaint. The news about Adwaita that i had read a day or two ago had also given me a lot of hope. Her video inspired me to a great extent. Thanks, everyone who helped me make that decision.
Now to the nature of the complaint. This is the link to the complaint i gave to the ICC. To put it it simple words, if words can be simple that way,

I was raped by a professor of SRFTI in the year 2014.
I was coerced into having sex with him.
I was physically abused by him. He slapped me once and tried to strangle me while sexually abusing me once.
He forced me to have unprotected sex with him saying that he had an erection problem.
He asked if he could have a threesome with me and my then boyfriend. 
He used all his power as a professor here to intimidate me into silence.
Long after i completely ended the sexual violence that i was being subjected to, he entered my room without my permission and retreated when he saw that i was in a video call with my friend. This is the link to the testimony she gave for me to the ICC. She made it public weeks ago with my permission. If you read it you will see how difficult it was for me to get out of abuse and to at first even understand how i was being abused. Such is the atmosphere in this place. It has to change and i hope this complaint will help it change in some way.

So on Christmas Eve 2015, after making sandwiches for breakfast i waited for the phone call from Kolkata police. They came to take my testimony at around 11.30 a.m. Putul ma'am accompanied me this time as well. The situation was only slightly better than the previous night. There was a lady police officer who could speak hindi and a male officer who spoke English. There was no help from SRFTI authorities to conduct the police's investigation. Imagine me being asked how to obtain permission to take a look at the guest house register. Putul ma'am said she would try to help by putting in a letter to ask the authorities to appoint someone to assist the police with such matters. I gave my testimony. I was asked to show the places of crime for them to take pictures. There were five. Two were shut. However when they opened up the room of the guest house where i was raped when i was bleeding and the linen was soaked in my menstrual bed and i was sick seeing it and sick thinking of what the guest house staff was going to speak about me and what they were going to do to me and what i could do about it and where then the professor just dismissed all my fears by saying that it was no big deal, then i felt weak in my legs and leaned on to a table there. It was terrible and i felt sorry for all the women who had ever had to undergo this kind of procedure. I doubted my decision to have proceeded with the complaint and then moved out to show the next location where i was raped. A very merry christmas indeed.

I have no fear now. The complaint i made about Prof. Y was about the incident when he tried to get intimate with me in a party held at another professor's house. He had put his arm around my waist and because he was my professor instead of slapping him what i had said was 'sir, can you please not do that'. Now that, people is called power equation. Just saying, if you still haven't got it. That was in 2013. I had also complained of the sexually coloured remarks he used to make in class about me. Once when i had returned to campus after a vacation he came to me and remarked 'Put on weight? It was kind of evident from where i was standing (behind me), if you know what i mean?'

The complaint about the student was one requesting the institute to not force me to work with him as it was doing because he had sexually abused me in the past. After being friends with me for a long time and after even having hosted me and my then boyfriend in his room he kissed me forcibly. Later asked me to have sex with him and forced me to do it twice and i had denied. The second time i had left the room and stopped talking to him. Later due to lack of other options i was forced to work with him. During a project he accidentally lost a memory card which contained a day's footage. I attempted suicide following this incident. Later i got to know that he had told his friends that after i denied him sex he had wanted to take revenge on me. During my playback project he let me know that he didn't want to work with me. I assumed that he had again mixed personal and professional up and had taken that decision because he was one of the accused in a complaint i had given against ragging earlier this year. Still the institute asked me to work with him. I let the institute know that i felt threatened to be in the same room as him. Nobody could say when he would feel like having sex with me again or throwing acid on my face depending upon if it was sex or revenge that he wanted.

So that is the state of affairs. I hope i get justice. By justice i really don't mean capital punishment or jail term. Oh i am against capital punishment by the way. And the state too, if you ask me, talking about jail term etc. Well, by justice i mean a change of environment. By justice i mean this not being repeated. Honestly i used to get scared whenever i saw these professors talk to any female student. I would just imagine all sorts of bad things being done to them women. One thing that a person who has been abused does not want is the abuse being repeated to anybody at all. I am glad that the ICC has been revived and is fully functional now. I am glad that more and more women are speaking up. I am glad that change is happening. To those on campus and elsewhere who have come up with 'but we thought it was consensual' lines, [one of the lines i heard here was 'but they looked so happy together'!] Well, to them i have to say that i remember my 'no's'. If you still haven't got it, NO only and always means NO. I know when a person is happy she doesn't cry every night and resort to masochism by scarring her wrist. And once and for all, what you think doesn't matter. When i say that it was not consensual, i mean it as i know it.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Kerala Rich Fruit Cake: Baking Debut, Christmas, Battles etc.

I like christmassy things. I erect a christmas tree in front of my room during the season and eat out on christmas eve to make myself feel good. This time christmas time also became battle time. I was battling against sexual harassment on campus. It took a lot of effort from my side as well as the institute's. I shall write about it in detail later. It needs to be recorded. How a group of women fought people holding power positions and (i am predicting here while writing,) succeeded.

Since it was giving me tremendous amount of stress i as usual decided to turn to cooking. I thought of making biriyani and then thought it wouldn't be a challenge big enough to ease out my stress because i have done it several times in the past. That is when i remembered her and her forgetting to soak fruits one season. When she wrote about that i had felt sad, for some reason. So i reminded her to 'soak fruits'. Then i thought what exactly was it that she meant by soaking fruits. So i dug up her recipe of rich kerala fruit cake and voila! i had my stress buster there, in that blog post.

I checked another recipe too, mishmash's.
She had specifically said that while baking you had to have all your measurements right. Comparing both the recipes my head started fuming. I couldn't make head or tail of the measurements mentioned in either. In the end i decided that i would follow her recipe but use mishmash's measurements. Also decided to add the spice mix which was present in mishmash's recipe.

The first step was to get all the ingredients. Baking in Kolkata? Off you go to New Market. So i did. I bought two baking pans and butter paper. I asked Nahoum's, the most famous bakery in New Market (even their fruit cake is not as good as kerala rich fruit cake, forgive me, bengalis, but it's the sweet truth) where i could get these. They directed me to Yakoob Mullick for baking goods and Crazy Nuts for dry fruits. I couldn't find Yakoob Mullick's so i bought my cans from M Rahman and Bros., B-74, New Market. Yakoob Mullick's is where you will get parchment paper I didn't get it the second time i went there too because the shop was too crowded and i had a film to catch back in the institute.

Back in the hostel i chopped the dry fruits and put it all in brandy. I did not chop the dates. Did later, before making the batter. That was the first time i was buying alcohol for anything other than drinking. I didn't like the look of the soaked fruits but i am telling you, it's okay. Mine didn't look all that good but what it made after going into the oven was just perfect. So no worries that way.

I didn't buy unsalted butter that day because she had called for all ingredients to be bought fresh. I thought i would get it from a nearby Spencer's store. I didn't. So i went to New Market again the week after that and looked for a butter shop and i was directed to J Johnson, New Market. You will get your vanilla essence also there. The vanilla essence that was sold in shops near my location smelled different and not very pleasant. This one smelled just like the ones my Amma used to store in her refrigerator. I went to M Rahman and Bros. again and bought all the measuring spoons and a sieve too. I was happy and good to go.

I think i messed up all the measurements or at least some of it. She had said that she never dared touch the recipe she got because she didn't know the complex science of baking. Well, i don't too. Not a bit. So for the same reason i mixed everything up and made a mess out of all the recipes i checked. So just alerting that for me 1 cup = 200mL, if it's really not so in the baking world.

But for all that, my first cake turned out really good and i myself was surprised. It was just like the ones we used to buy from Cochin Bakery (one of the best in Calicut, my hometown). I am not saying that it went smooth as butter. I witnessed the butter paper catch fire inside the oven twice. Once Sethuvamma also witnessed it, panicked and started shrieking. I threw a little tantrum of throwing the whole batter out and she saved it. Vai Vow was witness to this whole commotion. I fed my cat, Pinchu, the chicken chowmeen Sethuvamma had got for me and after the tantrum mode was over had to share Vai Vow's vegetable chowmeen while Pinchu licked her chops. I am guessing that what happened was that i set the oven on the wrong mode. Mine is a very basic model and doesn't have temperature marked on it. So when i put it in the first few times it baked the top of the cake alone and later burnt it also without cooking anything inside. I inverted the whole can and put it in again on another mode which i am assuming baked slower. Then it happened. And what came out was totally yummy.

The recipe called for storing the cake in air tight container for five days before cutting it. Well, neither me nor Vai Vow had the patience and cut it the very next day. It got over the very same day. It's only natural, i would say. It was totally yummy.

As i am writing i am pre heating the oven for the next one. I will write what i did with the two recipes i got from her blog and mishmash's. Dear baking patrons, please forgive this sacrilegious sinner.

I soaked:

Raisins (not black, brown.) 150g,
Orange peals 3-4 chopped,
Tutti frutti- a handful (i didn't know that this was chopped orange and lemon peels or else i wouldn't have bought that separately :D)
Dates (these were dried grapes and i couldn't chop them before putting it in. I think i should have used normal dates)
Cherries 100 g
I put all of this in 750 ml (what is called a pint in Kerala, a half in Kolkata) of brandy, the cheapest i could buy. The brandy was a little too much for the fruits so i think 500 ml would be just right. I soaked them for more than a week before starting on the cake.

Before baking i took out my butter from the fridge and kept it out to bring it to room temperature. I made the caramel by first heating half a cup of water (100 ml) and bringing it to boil. Set it aside to cool. Then took half a cup of sugar and started heating it with 1 tablespoon water. Waited till it turned dark brown. I darkened the shade of my brown every time i started on a new cake till i got the brown i wanted. Added the cooled water and brought it to boil and again and set it aside to cool. Caramel had to be cooled completely before adding it, i was told. I followed that. It looked like this.

Took 1 cup of unsalted butter (room temperature). First i used the butter from new market. Later i got Amul from Spencer's. I tried it first with the eggless cake i made for Sethuvamma. What i realized the difference was that was Amul had more butter in its butter if that makes any sense. Which means you need use only 3/4th of a cup. So take the butter and beat it. Now i don't have a beater so all the beating there was was done with my hands. Then added 1 1/2 cup of sugar to the butter and mixed it well. Added three egg yolks and mixed it well. Added the cooled caramel.

The flour, 1 1/2 cups of maida (all purpose flour). 1 teaspoon of baking powder. Sieved together. Thrice. Took 1 1/2 cups of dried fruits from the soaked bunch. Tossed it all in flour so that they wouldn't sink to the bottom of the batter. (All this was new to me and was pretty excited to see that it in fact didn't sink). If you have nuts, and i didn't, for the cakes i made for myself because i don't like nuts in my cake, but if you have them add chopped nuts 1/2 a cup after tossing that too in flour. Now add the sieved flour to the butter mix and mix well. It's hard. My arms ached the next day the first time i did it. Add the white of three eggs whisked with 1 teaspoon vanilla essence. Now add the fruits and nuts. Mix well. Set the batter aside for 6 hours.

Oven, like i said was different. It had three modes. I preheated the oven at its maximum temperature mode for half an hour. During that time i buttered the baking pan on all sides and lined it with butter paper. I didn't have parchment paper for the sides. Used butter paper there too. Transferred the batter to the baking pan. Put it in to the preheated oven. Turned the temperature mode down to the medium one. It took me one and a half hours to bake. My oven requires that its timer is set every fifteen minutes.
One advice. One night i was dead tired and fell asleep on one cake that i was baking without even knowing that i was sleeping. In the middle of the night when i got up and shouted cake! my partner told me that he had done it all right. I went back to sleep with an 'oh no!' sigh. The next morning found that he had burnt the cake and it was hard as a rock. We had it for breakfast that day. The insides, i mean.

The cake is baked if when you insert a toothpick in the middle of it and pull it out it comes with moist crumbs.

The cake was done. It looked and tasted heavenly.

I made five cakes with the first batch of fruits i soaked. When i soaked them i didn't know that i would be successful or i would have soaked more. So for the next batch i added kiwi and apricots as well. This batch would be for friends and family. So i added fruits and nuts too. The eggless cake recipe was again an improvised one. I got that from Maria's Menu but she had said that caramel was not required too. I didn't alter my earlier recipe one bit except for the egg yolks and white. Instead of that i added 1/2 a cup of whisked curd and 1/4 cup of hot milk. It turned out good too. Crumbled a bit but Sethuvamma was happy. Her christmas was made too.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Films, Winter 2015, Kolkata

La Strada [The Road] : Federico Fellini

If you want to use music the easiest thing you can do is to give one tune to a character. Even if the character dies you can use it.
What acting. Felt the girl was like me.
The last shot moving away from the character when they are in pain.

This is an interesting read on how the process of making a film is for directors. It sounds very honest and exciting to me. Note: Book to read: Federico Fellini: Interviews (Conversations With Filmmakers Series) Edited by Bert Cardullo

Fellini's creative process for La Strada started with vague feelings, "a kind of tone", he said, "that lurked, which made me melancholy and gave me a diffused sense of guilt, like a shadow hanging over me. This feeling suggested two people who stay together, although it will be fatal, and they don't know why". These feelings evolved into certain images: snow silently falling on the ocean, various compositions of clouds, and a singing nightingale. At that point, Fellini started to draw and sketch these images, a habitual tendency that he claimed he had learned early in his career when he had worked in various provincial music halls and had to sketch out the various characters and sets. Finally, he reported that the idea first "became real" to him when he drew a circle on a piece of paper to depict Gelsomina's head, and he decided to base the character on the actual character of Giulietta Masina, his wife of five years at the time: "I utilized the real Giulietta, but as I saw her. I was influenced by her childhood photographs, so elements of Gelsomina reflect a ten-year-old Giulietta."

Blissfully Yours: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Fraudulent women (2) and a man. Begins with them at a doctor trying to say that he has rashes etc and get an okay for job certificate. All of them go to some jungle and have sex. The POV of the moving car from the rear window.
The elder woman crying in the end
The motorbike chasing the car to give vegetables.
Didn't like the content at all. Looked all sex tome. It's as if i have to watch all that sex if i have to experience this form. But till the blow job it was really good. I don't know why i am made to see the penis. I don't like seeing anyone's penis and erection. Erection actually. The major difference between sex in art and porn is that in the former as a rule or something erect penis is avoided. I don't know if that was what the director was trying to break, but why? I don't want to see any actor's erection. Why would anyone want to!

Computer Chess: Andrew Bujalski (2013)

Funny film.
Man Vs. Machine idea.
The prostitute in the end opens her head and it's a machine sort of a thing.
Cats everywhere
The man who gets thrown out of the hotel. His mother.
Looking for money
Cinematography and cuts
Really go with the film. (Shot in black and white)
Casting too. The woman
But it is racist and sexist.

composition reference from the film

Pyaasa (1957): Guru Dutt

Dramatic: About poet whose work is not acknowledged till he is found dead [It was a beggar wearing his coat]. He is sent to mental hospital. Friends etc refuse to identify him. Ex love married rich man publisher. Now love a prostitute [Waheeda Rehman]. Divine love of sorts. The conversation you had with D Jeet after that. Characters leaving light completely in between. It's again becoming interesting in our generation because it's new to us.
The image in which the poet appears as silhouette in a cinema hall of sorts. Paper flying everywhere and all that. [A bit repetetive and overdone] but very powerful and emphatic image.
Women more beautiful in black and white and old sort of lighting.

The stage image reference for self

Bandini(1963): Bimal Roy

What a beauty that actress was. Nutan.
Liked the director's style. Stingy in using shots. Tries to tell as much as possible in one shot. The treatment. The woman is always behind bars and such. The title card image of her sitting alone in a bed in the jail dormitory is repeated later also. It works. Got butterflies seeing Dharmendra Nutan relationship (I am what is called painkili/cheesy). The whole film has been shot keeping the fact that it's name is bandini in mind. Such is the concentration and planning in shot taking. Kind of early feminism i think. In the end also she remains bandini is implied. Revolutionary is no choice of freedom. She is a captive there too.

Note; Watch 'Do Bigha Zameen' and 'Devdas'

Bhuvan Shome(1969): Mrinal Sen

Gret film. Use of animation.
Path breaking. But i feel in the end Bhuvan Shome shouldn't have changed at all. All right the girl moved him and all that. But i feel after coming back he shouldn't have torn up the report of the junior officor.
What a beautiful girl she was! What casting.
The bhoot bangalow she takes him to saying what rajas and ranis used to do there. The frame of the girl against the window frame looking like a queen.
Buvan Shome sad after knowing that the bird which fell was scared and not hit by him while shooting. In the end he says you keep thebird. Everyone and everything gets scared of me anyway. Good.
Indian railways. Rails rails rails. With music music music. Amitabh Bachchan's voice debuted in this film. Mrinal Sen said in that documentary called 'A Documentary Proposal' by Ramani. Must be there in the book he was reading from as well.

Ankur(1974): (Debut of) Shyam Benegal

Cinematography. Colours
Land. Land becoming a character.
Shabana Azmi is so damn beeautiful. The colours of her saree itself is adding something to the film. The well place is great location. Caste system. Vai Vow was talking of the Ankur se Fandry tak discourse (From Ankur to Fandry). In my opinion Ankur is much more safe than Fandry. May be not during its time. Don't know. The similarity of the last shot. But Fandry is towards the audience. Which is exactly the change which has happened. Even now when caste continues to be a reality the stone should be thrown to the audience because all of us are guilty.

Swayamvaram(1972): (Debut of) Adoor Gopalakrishnan

Crap film by Adoor. His craft is intact everything is intact. But what the hell does he mean by that story! Love marriage- disaster. Used to think that Elippathaayam was Adoor's debut. Glad that it was Swayamvaram. It was a sad knowledge to me that that director's films started getting worse and worse after his masterpiece debut. So now i know that he made a horrible debut and then moved on to make his masterpiece. Relief!

Tropical Malady (2004): Apichatpong Weerasethakul

I am of the opinion that the film is a masterpiece. The way pictures from old storybooks is incorporated into it. The gay love story transforming into that. The topography. Intertextuality. Uncle Boonmee who can remember his past lives. The firefly tree. What you and D Jeet had seen and had thought of for playback project. The shot in which tiger and man are shown together first. First it is a silhouette and then he shines torch on the tiger. That image is later tracked in picture form also. YOU CAN DO THAT WITH STRONG IMAGES. REPEAT IT. (But would you prefer? Don't know.) Great film. Gay couple and normal fun together so refreshing and nice to see.

Haal E Kangaal (The Bankrupts) (2015): Ramachandra P.N

 Utter bullshit about some films chool graduates making a film narrating script etc. Cinematography- pathetic. Everything- pathetic.

The Sleuth (1972): Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Twist over twist over twist story. No use watching. The old way of building a great set and using it to the fullest. Don't see the point in all that now. Who's going to work in studios like that anyway. Convoluted plot which confused my mind which didn't want to invest much in all that. Can just take some methods of camera movement and lighting perhaps from all that. Nothing more. That familiar Prestige actor (Michael Caine).
Note: Check his filmography
[Jyuth, batchmate told me that it was later remade into Hindi under the name Race. While in English they had kept to just describing the two women and making it clear that they were sexy, why, they even described how they are in bed, so instead of that, as usual, in bollywood they had shown the two sexy women.

Syndromes and a Century (2006): Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Not a masterpiece. Diseases repeating or something in a century. Not very effective this time though. Relevant in censorship context. Refused to screen etc. This time he repeats the story etc in the second half. [Forgot the film in two days. Not a good one, i guess]

Uncle Boonmee Who Can recall His Past Lives (2010): Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Cool, i guess. Again can't make head or tail of his multiple narratives. The forest monkey who later turns out to be Boonmee's son. The joke. Why have you grown your hair so long? (I found that line very funny). Later that boy says when Boonmee introduces him as his son 'But he is a monkey' found that funny too. Hi swife ghost appearing at the table. Beautifully done. The monkey son's tale of how he saw a female monkey like that on the trees while trying to photograph. They mate and he turns into that. Your uncle Boonmee has gone mad. That ghost with him is also mad. Vai Vow found that funny.

Monk coming to the hotel room in the end. Taking bath etc and the aunt and him leaving while they themselves sit and watch tv in the same scene. Intertextuality. Same one leg short woman i remember seeing. The same girl in Blissfully Yours. Urine let to leave the tube in the cave. Cave scene, compare with Ship of Theseus one. Fish in the cave i liked. They were all catfish. Catfish penetrated an ugly princess. Ugly princess scene also i liked. The weight of her ornaments isfelt. [How? Find out]. Was the waterfall made to freeze within the scene/shot? Like snow.
The ghost wife doing dialysis while Boonmee's death is approaching.
Like the director's magical realism on the whole. Like how humans interact with animals and other beings. How they even turn into each other, mate etc. Going back to storytelling and folktales and myths. Local myths. USE LOCAL MYTHS. Possible in diploma?

Thelma and Louise (1991): Ridley Scott

FINALLY watched it. Good in content and abrupt and quick storytelling. Issues valid. Thelma and Louise is feminist but in the end they are killed just to please public. If they are left free from the hands of law it will be a thing against the law, living, society etc. That way i didn't like it. Brad Pitt remember Kunju Thalona talking about his role in the film when i was a child. She was so in love with him. So am i. But i hate his character in the film. In the end one line that Louise says. Oh Thelma if there is one thing that you should have learnt from all this is that 'It is not your fault'. When she says that she knows it's her fault that all of that happened when the police are just about to catch them. They are at the cliff, Grand Canyon.

Tamaasha (2015): Imtiaz Ali

Crap. Good to look at actors. They look good. The woman looks good. Liked their first kiss. No scene that i liked.

Youth (2015): Paolo Sorrentino

Liked in parts. The part i hated the most was that of all the heroines of the director coming alive in a valley before he commits suicide. The whole good in bed bad in bed discussion was so pathetic. It makes youth look stupid as if sex is the only major concern of their lives. But liked some cuts and some sound work. The abruptness of it adds a certain jerkiness which is good. It's like the humour employed in the film itself.

Cafe Lumiere (2003): Hou Hsiao-Hsien

Made commemorating the 100th birth anniversary of Ysujiro Ozu. Nothing happens in the film and i think that is the beauty of it. Liked the acting. The painting by the bookshop recordist guy too. The matter of fact way in which the girl speaks about her pregnancy is good. There is no solution and life just goes on. Life goes on part is even similar to Ozu. Really loved the part where the research scholar meets the composer's wife played by herself.

Phoenix (2014): Christian Pretzold

What i loved the best was the cuts. Too good. Acting too. Trying to be with the person who never loved her, believing it was love, making herself believe that, all this has been done well. The part where they kiss is what i found really bad. It all came down to a usual hollywood thing in that. Her singing in the end and walking out was good. The serial number from the concentration camp. Her looking at the gun in the bathroom when he asks her to fake the mark of having removed the tattoo gives away that she won't kill him or herself. Felt it was a flaw in the script. It could have been avoided. Liked the way how her friend's suicide was not shown. She just returned to the house to learn that she killed herself two days ago. Good. Music, good.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

SIGNS Film Festival 2015

When our film got selected in SIGNS Film Festival 2015 i was surprised. So far all the important festivals in Kerala were rejecting it. I thought that they must have made a mistake. When i participated in the festival because i was anyway going home for my recording of playback project i realized that most people there thought that Gruhapravesham [Moving In] was a film that needed to be watched. I was surprised again.

While i have my own guesses why it was being rejected by festivals like VIBGYOR and IDSFFK, i realized that it was all subjective. These guesses seemed to be the exact reason why the film was selected at SIGNS. The jury gave a special mention to the film. I had a talk with jury chairperson Deepa Dhanraj after the ceremony and what she said made me feel much better. It was a ray of hope after a long period of dejection. She said that she felt like showing the film to her daughter. Asked me to send her a link.

This is my festival diary. There were some really good films and some very bad ones. The biggest problem i encountered there was sloppy projections, pathetic acoustics and feeble turn out of viewers.

21st October
Anaadidhara G Aravindan
About folk dance forms of india. It is just information giving buthe has tried different and new things. Such a wonder to see this variety of art forms lined together. Tracking down from top [crane down] to reveal the costume and the artist [copy update: did already]. The goal is to reveal. I think it is best achieved that way in the case of costume and that kind of an art form.

Kalamandalam Gopi
Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Has tried to bring his own story telling methods into his documentary. Like childhood to adult transformation of Gopi in one mise-en-scene. Also introducing his wife and kalamandalam other guy who plays female roles with him often. Gopi is telling his story as scripted by Adoor. For the first time with subtitles, i enjoyed Kathakali. To enjoy it only english subtitles are required, in my opinion.

Awakenings - Short Film

DI and colour correction and what not. Horror feeling attempted. Hollywood model. Achieved to an extent but falls flat in some places. I saw excellent possibilities with the boy child who has sexual feelings for his babysitter. Didn't use that. The line 'children are watching us'.

Waves of Music
Pathetic documentary on Kochi's music culture.

Nice documentary.
The opening sequence was BRILIIANT. Ends with wife tying something to the old husband's neck. Rohinton Mistry. The sweetening of milk shots were great too.
Some portions again went to just information giving mode. But still good. Shot BRILLIANTLY.

About film makers in jail. Mystifying and clorifying the process of film making. I believe it should be like Day for Night. Not like this. Gimmickry.

Magic Print
Loved it Printing of clothes. Nice sound work. Nice photography. So nice to look at. Lacks narative but it's okay.

Penile code

Didn't like the parts where news was simply read on black screen. But otherwise good. A penis comes to a woman lesbian. Why not gay. Denying agency of gay people.

Aandolan - Vaibhav Hiwase
Brilliant. About a problem faced by villagers and how they battle it. All the scenes with the old man and the man who is a martyr and his mother who loses her senses and calls for him at night. The bird. The man's trembling hands feeding the bird. The male lead has performed really well. The way the film ends with him jogging in the room. Really good.

Ore Udal.
Didn't like it. Sajitha Madhathil as a nun. She gets raped and has a child. Bad film.

Importantbecause it is voice from that place. Bad film. Woman killing police officer who tries to rape her. Drinks alcohol. Why is it called hunger. Their problems should see light.

Dark Frames
A porn video wife. Husband. She is sending him pictures in bra etc. His colleague tells him. He becomes confused. Tries to do the same with her. She gets suspicious. They reconcile. Man leaves phone in autorickshaw. That portion horrible. What does that mean. Revenge porn doesn't exist is what is implied.

Kapila - Sanju Surendran
Didn't like the home-family portion. Chanting etc.

Scattered Clouds - Debja Ni.
Documentary about lonliness. The director's loneliness. The portion the taxi in which the taxi driver talks about it is against the essence of the film, i felt. But that's again truth.

Deepa Dhanraj was asked why she was addicted to documentary film makers. Four years of working in Kannada she was no interested in fiction. Intimate association with people you are filming. This stays even after filming. In a documentary film where does a film end and reality begin. Have you done justice. Have you done justice to the issue
It's a collaborative practice. You both (the director and the subject) want to bring out the story. That's not the way i film. The human relationship takes over. What does it require you to do. That human relationship.
Thekind of creativity shown in documentaries in india outshines fiction film making.
Eradication of education system in india. So many colleges in Gujarath removed humanities totally. Eduction is to serve industry according to Modi. Then it is very narrow. We have to teach humanities.

Invoking Justice
Women speaking up from muslim community has a huge impact. Speak up in front of men. The final outcome is not winning the case. Small societal changes.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Sexual Harassment Battle in SRFTI #2: 'Heartbreaking'

Sunday is my favourite food day because the mess gives chole bature. I love it. While gobbling it up on 13th December, Sunday, the president of our general body handed me over Times of India and pointed to an article in the front page. It was about the suspension of three professors of the institute following complaints of sexual harassment. In my opinion the news was old and it should have been out the very next day the professors were suspended. I was happy that it had been made public at least a week after. There was more to be done, in my opinion. Dismiss all of them for example.

The previous night my next door neighbour had knocked on my door to say that someone from the Times had called her. She seemed to be worried about how the reporter had got her number. She said that she wanted to let the general body know of this matter. We went to the general secretary to let him know. I wanted to know if anybody had spoken anything about what had happened in the institute in the past one month. It needed to be spoken about and i didn't understand why everyone was shying away from speaking to the press. I would have spoken had someone called me. Pretty soon i got to know what the reasons for the silence were.

The first reason was that the inquiry regarding the complaints was going on and with the suspension of the three professors there was a sense of peace prevailing on campus. I do not agree with this. This peace is a fool's paradise. By shutting up about things which are shameful we are not extinguishing the shameful things itself. We are just hiding it and it only favours the predators and perpetrators of crime. Yes. These are crimes. Like murder. Like rape. Rape.

The second reason which was stated was that the reputation of the institute will be tainted and the public could make use of the current situation in FTII and now this in SRFTI to shun film schools altogether. Wow. So we will be happy in our 50 acres of government land and make films which have its roots in gender inequality, oppression and abuse. May be i am not an artist. I do not think that this what is happening here in the name of art makes any sense. If that makes me a bad artist, a blacksheep, an attention seeker, 'mad from the beginning' etc, i am only happy. I am all that. With pride.

Later the matter was posted in one of our WhatsApp groups where a lot of students interact. I was shocked to see the responses of the student community. One of them said 'SRFTI in TOI front page today. I don't see front page news when student films get awards'. Insensitivity couldn't have found a better abode. 'Heartbreaking' someone said. 'Noooo', another. Just one person said that may be it was 'heartbreaking, but necessary'. I was sick of having to babysit adults in politics. So kept mum. What is heartbreaking is that sexual harassment continued so long. What is heartbreaking is that nobody cared. That it took such a long time to even revive the internal sexual harassment committee.
Pretty soon i saw that one student who had been prohibited from entering the campus following a sexual harassment complaint was commenting there innuendos and all. My head started reeling and i blurted out at him. Can we ever prohibit abusers from entering digital spaces?

Well, people have already started murmuring that it was me who tipped the press off. I have no comments on this. When the media reported our ragging issue in first year they said it was me. This year the institute sat smug protecting itself from the police complaint which had been lodged against ragging. About the Inquiry committee report on which no action was taken.
I would like to make myself clear one more time on this occasion. Sexual harassment is not okay. The reputation of the institute should be tainted if there is sexual harassment on campus. It's not one, three professors have been suspended. The complaints are not a couple, but many. Parents will be worried? That is the whole point. They should be. Everyone should be worried to send female students to a space which encourages sexual harassment and on top of it nurtures a student culture of hushing matters up because it doesn't sound good. Well to get molested, raped and abused don't feel good either. So cut the crap, people, grow up and let the world know of injustice and how it was battled.

Monday, 30 November 2015

November 2015: Films

Satya; Ram Gopal Varma (1998)

Liked it. Casting is the best. Actors competing on who does better. 

3rd November
My Life to Live; Jean Luc Godard (1962)

Godard usual. But what about prostitution? Why is it shown as if it's a normal thing to do. Does making a film on it mean otherwise? If then why does it present the issue as normal. Need to think.

Vidheyan; Adoor Gopalakrishnan (1993)

Great! Remember reading the novel over a year ago. What i remember of it i think i can say that i liked the film better. The simple realistic way in which Adoor constructs his mise en scene is amazing to watch. How he build up suspense when Pattelar is going to kill his wife the first time. Extracting the best from actors. Uff! See this frame which i liked a lot. He is a bull. an animal.
And his fall. His downfall. Great. The chair shown in the titles. I love early Adoor.

John and Jane; Ashim Ahluwalia (2005)
Documentary on call centre people by the director of Ms Lovely. It's a good job. He has experimented with form. Sound work is brilliant too. But somewhere is it making fun of the way in which people want to be American? I don't know. It was a very sad sight though.

Obsession: Luchino Visconti (1943)

Extra marital relationship. About sex, sexuality, poverty, fear of poverty of a woman. Husband a rich man who runs a bar and an eatery. Wife cooks. A tramp and wife meet and they make love and decide to be with each other. They eventually murder the husband and take over the property. But they are now unable to live in peace. Especially the man.
Whatever the theme, the craft employed is brilliant. Didn't like the film but yes, it shows it's by a good storyteller. (First film of the director)

Umberto D; Vittorio De Sica (1952)

I remember the first time i watched it in CRT (Classroom Theatre). I was moved to tears and it was the first time that i realized may be, that such films too could be made. Have been made. And perhaps can be made. The casting of the young pregnant girl is truly brilliant. Her face shows what she is. Wow!
The scene in which Umberto thinks of begging, the way it has been shown is great.

Two Women: Vittorio De Sica

Writing after months of watching the film and the only thing i remember after reading the plot summary on wikipedia is the gang rape. I remember how the girl became numb after it. 

Monday, 5 October 2015

Cooking Heals: PITFB Fried rice and pyaazi

With the playback project i realized that the season of losing had begun. It all started with people telling me that i had lost weight. Soon after i lost my cinematographer. D Jeet let me know that he wouldn't be working with me in Diploma project. One week into prep (Pre-production) my producer and line producer withdrew from the project because Ramana, my producer wouldn't be in Kolkata during the time of shoot. Oh yes, even before that Aalayam, my editor had let Ramana know that he wouldn't be working with me. His department started forcing me to work with him and i as usual didn't budge. I approached my senior, Subha, and he agreed to edit for me. This is outside the rules, so basically i am royally screwed.

D Jeet and i started going on recce without a producer and without money and almost decided upon a location. But while this was happening an epiphany happened to me one morning. Vai Vow came with the good news that his film had been selected for Munich film festival and they would even provide for his to and fro travel. I got really excited and laughed. Then he said victoriously that a lot of films had been sent and only his was selected. That sentence hit me hard in the head. The obsessive compulsive that i am i couldn't hear anything else after that. Even though i had not thought of that aspect till then the realization struck a severe blow that i felt i was bleeding. What he said made me think that my own work will never ever be selected anywhere and that my own film making was absolute crap. I didn't know how to make films. I started crying. It looked really funny and embarrassing. I was crying after having heard a good news. Vai Vow was worried and i tried all i could to make him understand that it had nothing to do with him or with what he said, it was just one of those lines which made you think of all things under the sun and feel like shit. So i cried till afternoon, got a terrible headache and then slept on it.

I started working from the start like how i had after my DV film which was certified shit. I was back to square one. I felt like a loser. I was depressed. So i turned to cooking. That is how i decided to make fried rice after one night i tasted the fried rice they made at the mess and felt sorry for people who ate it.

Like i said i like the colours while cooking. Hence the customary picture of beans and carrot. I used my favourite gobindobhog rice. I prepared it the previous night. It was still a little sticky. I made raita (salad) because Vai Vow loves it and had a bit of it myself (i hate curd in most forms, raita is still okay).

I used her recipe which she said always ended up looking indian somehow. I like flawed food. It makes me feel at home.
Then when i was sad again after a few days (i swear sadness after break up is so much better than sadness after life changing realizations) i decided to make pyaazi which is ullivada of non-mallus. I got the recipe from the most energetic cook on screen i have seen, Mia Kitchen. Sometimes after attending screening at main theatre most of us make a stop at the couple which makes pyaazi, aloo bhaja, gobi ka pakoda etc next to hardworking tea shop . It was when Subha once, some months ago gave me a pyaazi from his packet that i realized what they were selling and what was called pyaazi was ullivada. So i was again a loser who never had that for over two years of being here.

Anyway the ullivada i made tasted good. I had it with a little ketchup. Since we ate all of it before sethuvamma came i will make it one of these days. I can also try and prove that even though i didn't learn how to make films, i learned how to make ulli effing vada

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

August, September 2015: Films

Pather Panchali; Satyajit Ray (1955)


Muzzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai
Detailed post here

2nd September
Hunger: Steve McQueen (2008)

What a film. About 'No Wash' Protests and hunger strikes the political prisoners carries out. Brilliant shot taking. See that long pans and sweeping camera begins with one person and ends with another. The little Bobby visiting the dying Bobby in hospital from the story he narrated to his priest friend. Prepared to die. Everyone was prepared to die. Whatever the cause the conviction is awe inspiring.
Excrement on walls and maggots and the dirt. All filmed in the way it should be. With minimum conversations to hold the attention of viewers. Also in the long conversation that Bobby has with his priest friend everything is filmed in the two shot full shot. Only in the end do we get to see a close up. Building tension that way has been achieved as if effortlessly. Brilliant.

29th September
The Triplets of Belleville; Sylvain Chome (2003)

Animation. About a boy who grows up to be a cyclist and gets kidnapped. His grandmother going in search of him and the way the triplets back then and now were linked to the grandmother's life. Old triplets are very nice too. It is a good thing that it started with their performance which later becomes on TV that the grandmother and grandchild are watching.

Paprika; Satoshi Kon (2006)

Animation film.
What a load of shit. Something like inception. Horrible. In some places it looked like porn. About this woman who can appear in dreams and works as a psychologist in the day. Alter ego sort of thing. Badly made. Crap. 

Mili; Rajesh Raman Pillai (2015)

When i first saw the film's hoardings in Kerala, had wondered why a film named after a woman had big pictures of Nivin Pauli. The film is only about Mili. Didn't like the film.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Sandwich Maker

I hated cheese. So when Sethuvamma got me a sandwich maker (she sometimes feels like buying this i have never asked her for) i was at a loss of what to do with it other than toasting bread. I don't like the usual potato filling sanwiches which Amma nd Sethuvamma made. Trust me, when you are in Kolkata you will hunt down things which don't use aaloo (potatoes) and have just that. Bengalis have their infamous aloos in even their biriyani. I went to some food blogs and saw some sandwich recipes. Most of them had cheese. So then i decided i would make it with cheese and ask Vai Vow to eat it. That is how i made my first sandwich. Egg and cheese sandwich. It was easy as hell to make. I got the recipe from here

A slice of bread, butter it, add your egg in whichever way you like it (i used scrambled egg), a slice of cheese on it, then again buttered bread, all of it goes to the sandwich maker and it will grill it for you. Super cool. I saw that Vai Vow was liking it. I took a chance and had a bite with ketchup. It tasted yum! Did that mean that i had started liking cheese too? I didn't have time to answer those mental questions because i was soon gobbling down the rest of the sandwich. What came out of the sandwich maker was just some great filling breakfast that i had difficulty in stopping myself from making a few more. I had to stop myself because the cheese i bought was so expensive and i couldn't finish it all in a day. I had no idea that cheese was expensive. I used to think that it cost something close to what butter cost.

Sethuvamma made a visit to feed Pinchu (my cat) in the evening and i made her two sandwiches without egg. Even that tasted great. I felt so good. I decided that to make it again on Sunday. This time i would make it for three people, myself, Vai Vow and Sethuvamma. So it would be vegetable sandwich Vai Vow being an egg eating vegetarian and Sethuvamma a fish eating vegetarian. (I don't know how the most ardent non vegetarians like me end up being around people from whose lives meat, fish etc are missing. Sigh)

So on sunday i made egg sandwich with boiled egg, onion, red bell pepper, capsicum (i was taught that green bell pepper alone is called capsicum. Wikipedia says that's not true. Indianism, may be.), carrot, cucumber and mint leaves. What i like the most about vegetarian ingredients is the colour. I love all of them. I spread butter over the slices of bread and put a slice of cheese in between. When it was grilled and out it was just so lovely. Sethuvamma asked me to make an eggless one and i did. I had an eggless one myself. Even that tasted great. I cursed myself for never trying sandwiches ever since i started cooking two years ago. It is just so easy to make and just so filling and good.

With this sandwich incident i have come to realize that cinema doesn't matter after a point. If i were asked to make sandwiches through the day and didn't have to shoot my playback project i would still have been happy i guess. Now that i like cheese i think i should learn how to make cheese as well. (Yes, i am (half) crazy).

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai: All India Protest Screening and Solidarity Meet

25th August, 2015

Attended the screening of documentary Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai directed by Nakul Singh Sawhney. Kolkata held three screenings of the film at three locations and different times of the day. At
Muktangan Rangalaya where the screening was organized by Cinema of Resistance, Kolkata, it was preceded by a performance by activists against the various fascist measures taken by the state to hinder freedom of speech. 

The screening of Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai which happened in Kirori Mal College under Delhi University was disrupted by ABVP goons. The film probed into the 2013 riots which happened in Uttar Pradesh and the involvement of BJP in it. Protest screenings were scheduled on 25th August 2015 all over the country. That was the day filmmaker Shubradeep Chakravorty whose work En Dino Muzaffarnagar also had been censored and attacked by the right wing for the same reasons had died.

After the screening we were informed that the screenings at Santiniketan and Chennai had been stopped by right wingers. Students from FTII who were present during the screening also spoke about the ongoing strike in the institute against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the chairperson.

Before the screening at Muktangan Rangalaya, Raj Behari, Kolkata

Vai Vow, my classmate and i watched the film in a packed hall. The sound was bad and the projection was a little slanted but what the documentary showed was what it was all about. Even though i have differences of opinion in the way it was cut and filmed and the storytelling itself i also believe that the film was not about any of those at all. I could feel and see the reason for whatever was wrong with the country called india in there.

It was only a few days ago that i had read about yet another incident of BJP activists being caught with beef. Not that it had anything to do with Muzaffarnagar. Yet these days i feel most of the things i read are intertextual with the happenings like that of Muzaffarnagar. Why do riots happen? How do they happen? Whose country is hindusthan and what are minorities like muslims going through in this country are questions which need to be addressed every day in every other conversation, in my opinion. The documentary clearly analyzes the role of political parties, majorly BJP, in the Muzaffarnagar riots. It also digs into how it resulted in the sweeping victory that BJP had in the elections which followed it. It spoke about how the farmers lost to communal powers, the use of women to generate violence by accusing muslim men of assaulting hindu women, of the situation of dalits, how they suffered regardless of who was in power. The portions which exposed how the 'muslims steal our women' story was made up and fake were powerful. The portions in which hindu women spoke for themselves saying 'we are not safe in our own houses and they expect us to be safe outside' followed by the speaker's poignant look into nothing still remains in my mind.

I felt that the whole event caught the essence of their slogan 'You stop us at one place, we spring up everywhere!'
I will not say that Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai is a well made documentary. What i will say and continue saying is that everybody should watch it either as a mark of solidarity against the fascist government in place in the country now or as a reality check. How we have reached this state of affairs where Mr Narndra Modi is our PM and every day there is one remark or the other which essentially urges india to be more and more hindu in outlook and living.

After the screening someone asked me if i thought that filmmaking was a way to protest or resist anything. I gave an emphatic yes as an answer and added that i also thought that art was the best way to resist against anything at all. I believe it and hope to practise it. I also believe in keeping records. Coincidentally on the day of the screening someone in the institute had asked me why i wanted a record of everything that happened put up on social media. It sounded ironical to me, coming from an aspiring filmmaker. Isn't a filmmaker's struggle or quest also that of recording itself? Tomorrow i will be dead like Shubradeep Chakravorty. Like how he had left his film, his record, i would want a record to remind people that i had lived with such and such people and in such and such times. Insignificant as i am is how significant the time i live in is. 
Long live freedom of speech! 

Friday, 17 July 2015

Kappad: Where i Was Not Firm

Then we decided to go to Kappad because Vai said he liked places of historical importance. Kappad is where Vasco Da Gama landed.
That day i took Vai to Paragon again to have oonu (thali). There in the section where commoners sit you get oonu for Rs.  35. In the other section it is sold at Rs. 75. He liked the oonu very much.

Oonu at Paragon

We had a little dessert at Brown Town, Paragon's confectionery shop. I had chillie halwa and Vai carrot mysore pak. The pak was better. Halwa wasn't bad.

Chilli halwa and Carrot mysore pak at Brown Town, Paragon.

Then we went to the new KSRTC building in Mavoor road and took a bus which went to Kannur and got out at Pukkad. From Pukkad we took an autorickshaw to Kappad. The fare was Rs. 30.
The sea was raging. It was cloudy and in some time started raining. We walked along the beach which was pretty much eaten up by the sea and headed for a group of rocks. Two coast guards who were seated in a hut shoo-d us away. We walked back and found a similar rock away from guards.

It was great. Watching the sea. We sat in the rain and talked for long. Then decided to go to another part of the beach which looked very tempting. While we were on our way there more than two residents warned us not to go there. They said that only the other day was someone washed away by the sea. We said to each other that it was impossible. Sea couldn't possibly take anybody away from where we were headed. It looked quite safe.

Vai Vow at Kappad

On the rocks

We looked at the waves. They were huge but never reached us. Some came close. We didn't venture more into the beach and were sure that we were at a safe distance. Till that wave came. Vai later said that he had shouted at me to 'be firm'. I couldn't have been firm even if i had heard him because that was exactly what i didn't know how to do. In life and on the beach. Be firm. The sea washed half of Vai and took me with her. I went towards the sea and then was thrown right back at the beach. I felt it. Close. Near me. I was being taken, taken, and then spat out with a jerk. It was when Vai came and hitched me up holding my hand that i came back to Kappad and the sea. Till then i was the sea.

Feet and hands trembling, both of us walked back. All who had warned us gave mocking smiles which we didn't see because we didn't look at their faces. But of course we knew they had them on. We went to a bar cum restaurant at the beach. Vai had a beer. I asked him to have kappa (tapioca). It was of poor quality. I made a mental note to make kappa erissery after returning. I was wet from head to toe. My phone was dead. Everything in my bag was sandy and dripping wet. Yet i felt good.

After the beer we went to a portion in the stone embankment which was in between two naked trees. That's when i roughly translated a poem by Veeran Kutty for Vai which was something like

'Roots of trees which we planted wide apart
So that their leaves don't even touch each other
Are making love under the soil'

As soon as i said this a wave washed the trees' roots. Vai liked that moment very much and captured it on his phone camera. Here it is.

While we were there i smoked one. After that some mallu maledom struck a conversation with Vai and started asking about our relationship. I pretended to be non mallu and had a lot of fun. They asked if we were married and i said yes. They asked Vai if his wife also smoked. I liked it when everyone got a taste of malluship. It was funny as long as it was harmless. Most of the time it was violent moral policing. People have died. It was scary.

By taking Vai to places i was rediscovering my hometown and land. I loved it because i thought of something she had told me. That she wanted to travel to all places where i was hurt and rebuild memories for me there. I wanted to do the same with her. I did that with Vai on my way to Kappad. That was the route in which i used to travel to meet someone with whom i had an abusive relationship. There were four bridges that the bus would go over to reach there. I would text him as they got over one by one. Texts which just read 'first bridge (onnaam paalam) second bridge' etc. Now it would just be the way to Kappad where we had only good memories. Perfect.

Vai said that i looked like those ariyundas which were not properly ground with visible crumbs with all that sand on my hair. He also said that i had slept with the sea that day. When i reached home and took bath i realized he was right. There was not a curve, cavity or crevice in my body that the sea and sand hadn't touched.