Wednesday, 21 June 2017

15 Muslim Men Were Booked Under Sedition For Cheering For Pakistan. Here Is Why The Country Didn't Care

So Indian cricket team lost a game. For those who don’t give a shit about cricket it was just a sigh of relief. All that insane cricket frenzy would come to an end. For those who love cricket, it was one of those days in which they would perform all the duties of a faithful fan. Celebrate the victory of the team they support. Not anymore. Sorry. You can’t do that in India.

Well some of you can’t. Those of you who like team Pakistan. Those of you who cheer for the victory of Pakistan will be sent to jail. Wait. There is an important word missing in there and that is Muslim. The 15 men who were charged with sedition for cheering for Pakistan and were denied bail and sent to jail were Muslim. Why? The neighbours complained. Oh yeah, the neighbours. Err… bursting fire crackers and shouting was the disturbance right? Where were you good souls last Diwali? How is it that these neighbours transform themselves to dutiful citizens when it is an azaan that they are hearing? Ever been to Hindu weddings? Oh you probably sing there, don't you?

That makes us wonder, what was everyone doing when this bullshit was being pulled by the government? Then the world will turn upside down for you. Not getting it? It will turn upside down because everyone was doing sheersana at the time. Yeah. It was world yoga day yesterday and all of our dear politicians were busy doing yoga postures that they just didn’t see this. How can you when you are viewing the world like this

Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Those who were not doing this were no good either. Take this Madhya Pradesh minister Gaurishankar Bisen for instance. Anybody would think that he’d have something to say on this because it happened in his state. But poor Bisen. How can he when yoga soothed his too much that he fell asleep. Surely, you cannot get all the news of what is happening in the country when you’re sleeping. We feel you bro. Want a lullaby? You can listen to the national anthem of Pakistan because if India’s is played you’d have to get up from sleep and stand up. Or else you’ll be booked under sedition.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Understanding a Photograph: John Berger

I started reading this book because I was so enamoured by ‘Ways of Seeing’ by Berger. I think I will read his novel next. It was not as exciting as ‘Ways of Seeing’ but I realized that John Berger is someone who can shake me with words, by the way he arranges them and the meaning they contain. The book was heavy with words containing ideas which are sometimes so heavy that I almost felt these words struggle with weight of the ideas, trying hard to slither away from the author.
Here are excerpts which I liked and what I thought of them.

In the chapter ‘Understanding a Photograph’ he tries explaining what a photograph signifies.
‘A photograph is a result of the photographer’s decision that it is worth recording that this particular event or this particular object has been seen. If everything that existed were continually being photographed, every photograph would become meaningless. A photograph celebrates neither the event itself nor the faculty of sight in itself. A photograph is already a message about the event it records. The urgency of this message is not entirely dependent on the urgency of the event, but neither can it be entirely independent from it. At its simplest, the message, decoded, means: I have decided that seeing this is worth recording.

It might sound simple perhaps, but if you think about it, you will realize how deep and true this thought is. The statement is true about every single photograph, isn’t it?

Berger continues to say,
‘This is equally true of every memorable photographs and the most banal snapshots. What distinguishes the one from the other is the degree to which the photograph explains the message, the degree to which the photograph makes the photographer’s decision transparent and comprehensible. Thus we come to the little-understood paradox of the photograph. The photograph is an automatic record through the mediation of light of a given event: yet it uses the given event to explain its recording.

Isn’t that totally mind blowing!

Photography is the process of rendering observation self-conscious.’
‘A movie director can manipulate time as a painter can manipulate the confluence of the events he depicts. Not so the still photographer. The only decision he can take is as regards the moment he chooses to isolate. Yet this apparent limitation gives the photograph its unique power. What it shows invokes what is not shown. One can look at any photograph to appreciate the truth of this. [The oft repeated line in both films and photographs that ‘what is in the frame is also what is outside the frame’]The immediate relation between what is present and what is absent is particular to each photograph: it may be that of ice to sun, of grief to a tragedy, of a smile to a pleasure, of a body to love, of a winning racehorse to the race it has run.’[In a film you don’t have to show fire. You only have to show embers. It shows fire without showing it.]

Berger says that the moment that is chosen for the photograph by the photographer decides the effectiveness of the photograph. The moment, he says should contain a ‘quantum of truth’. ‘The nature of this quantum of truth, and the ways in which it can be discerned, vary greatly. It may be found in an expression, an action, a juxtaposition, a visual ambiguity, a configuration. Nor can this truth ever be independent of the spectator.’ [Me: In a photograph of someone waving goodbye from a train about to leave, the quantum of truth can be the wave, it tells us about the occasion, the person whom the wave is directed at and many more things. This cannot be independent of the spectator. A spectator might discern these unsaid images according to their orientation and their own personal experience cloud. The wave might signify the lunch the person is soon going to have on the train for someone. It could be about the smoke the person is going to have in the train toilet soon after and the wall writings with explicit content found in every train toilet.  

In ‘Political Uses of Photo-Montage’, he says this about photo montages. These days there are so many of them around. Most politicians have been subjected to these on the internet. Modi, Trump… Berger says that this way of editing photographs, juxtaposing them with other images, etc. has this as the principle behind it.

‘The peculiar advantage of photo-montage lies in the fact that everything which has been cut out keeps its familiar photographic appearance. We are still looking at things and only afterward at symbols.
            But because these things have been shifted, because the natural continuities within which they normally exist have been broken and because they have now been arranged to transmit an unexpected message, we are made conscious of the arbitrariness of their continuous normal message. Their ideological covering or disguise, which fits them so well when they are in their proper place that it becomes indistinguishable from their appearances, is abruptly revealed for what it is. Appearances themselves are showing us how they deceive us.’

[There are plenty of contemporary examples to be found all around us. The example taken by Berger is that of a photo montage in which Hitler is]

‘returning the Nazi salute at a mass meeting (which we do not see). Behind him, and much larger than he is, the faceless figure of a man. This man is directly passing a wad of banknotes into Hitler’s open hand raised above his head. The message of the cartoon (October 1932) is that Hitler is being supported and financed by the big industrialists. But, more subtly, Hitler’s charismatic gesture is being divested of its accepted current meaning.] Later he says, ‘Those interested in the future didactic use of photo-montage for social and political comment should, I am sure, experiment further with this ability of the technique to demystify things.’ 

One of the lines in ‘Photographs of Agony’:

‘…the black blood of black-blood of black-and-white photographs’. On the effect of photographs which depict the painful reality,

Berger writes,

‘They bring us up short. The most literal adjective that could be applied is arresting. We are seized by them. (I am aware that there are people who pass them over, but about them there is nothing to say.) As we look at them, the moment of the other’s suffering engulfs us. We are filled with either despair or indignation. Despair takes on some of the other’s suffering to no purpose. Indignation demands action. We try to emerge from the moment of the photograph back into our lives. As we do, the contrast is such that the resumption of our lives appears to be a hopelessly inadequate response to what we have just seen.’

In ‘Paul Strand’, he talks about Bresson and the difference between Strand’s method and his.

‘His [Paul Strand’s] method as a photographer is more unusual. One could say that it was the antithesis to Cartier-Bresson’s. The photographic moment for Cartier-Bresson is an instant, a fraction of a second, and he stalks that instant as though it were a wild animal. The photographic moment for Strand is a biographical or historic moment, whose duration is ideally measured not by seconds but by its relation to a lifetime. Strand does not pursue an instant, but encourages a moment to arise as one might encourage a story to be told.

[Somehow I feel that this is also the difference between Bresson and Tarkovsky.]

While analysing Strand’s photographs, Berger says that what the photographer does is

‘to present himself to his subject in such a way that the subject is willing to say: I am as you see me…I am includes all that has made me so…The I am is given its time in which to reflect on the past and to anticipate its future: the exposure time does no violence to the time of the I am: on the contrary, one has the strange impression that the exposure time is the life time.’

You might be able to get an idea of what he means by taking a look at this photograph by Strand.

I feel that every time you expose this should happen. Imagine a film in which most of the shots are like this. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing to achieve!

In ‘Uses of Photography: for Susan Sontag’ he writes his responses to her book On Photography.
‘What the camera does, however, and what the eye itself can never do, is to fix the appearance of that event. It removes its appearance from the flow of appearances and it preserves it, not perhaps forever but for as long as the film exists. [These days, even more because we are digital.] The essential character of this preservation is not dependent upon the image being static; unedited film rushes preserve in essentially the same way. The camera saves a set of appearances from the otherwise inevitable suppression of further appearances. It holds them unchanging. And before the invention of camera nothing could do this, except, in the mind’s eye, the faculty of memory.’

[Isn’t that just amazing? We humans actually love memory so much that we invented a means of preserving it. Better than memory perhaps.]

‘The faculty of memory led men [by now you must have realized that Berger uses ‘men’ to mean people, like most of the world still do.] everywhere to ask whether, just as they themselves could preserve certain events from oblivion, there might not be other eyes noting and recording otherwise unwitnessed events. Such eyes they then accredited to their ancestors, to spirits, to gods or to their single deity. What was seen by this supernatural eye of men, but not this higher justice from which nothing or little could be hidden.’

‘The spectacle creates an eternal present of immediate expectation: memory ceases to be necessary or desirable. With the loss of memory the continuities of meaning and judgement are also lost to us.
[If you forget your past you might not be able to judge who is your oppressor. You could think that it is your mother who is not letting you wear certain clothes but that is because your memory does not retain the great grandfather(s) who maintained that women were raped because of their clothes]
The camera relieves us of the burden of memory. It surveys us like God, and it surveys for us. [It is not possible for anyone to forget Hitler.] Yet no god has been so cynical, for the camera records in order to forget.’

[After clicking a picture, there is a sigh of relief that it will not be forgotten anymore. Like how you feel reassured after you hit ‘save’ in a document or a video you are editing. However, this God as theorised by Sontag and Berger is different from my interpretation, mainly because Berger always saw photography through the lens of capitalism and class. I have not read On Photography.]

Berger agrees with Sontag that this cynical god who records in order to forget is the god of monopoly of capitalism. He quotes Sontag

‘A capitalist society requires a culture based on images. It needs to furnish vast amounts of entertainment in order to stimulate buying and anaesthetize the injuries of class, race, and sex.’
[I understood this part and agree with it too. The advertising industry flooded with images, photographs, manipulated and not is the biggest example. Berger believes that photographs being arrested moments will not suffice. The way capitalism is operating, it definitely will not. True. So he says,]

‘Photographs are relics of the past, traces of what has happened. If the living take tat past upon themselves, if the past becomes an integral part of the process of people making their own history, then all photographs would reacquire a living context, they would continue to exist in time, instead of being arrested moments.’[So when capitalism gives you the glossy picture of Coca-Cola, beads of icy water shining on the glass, humankind, if it remembers the past, will remember Plachimada.]

Now comes the way in which this can be achieved, which I think every photographer should keep in mind while at work.   

‘For the photographer this means thinking of her- or himself not so much as a reporter to the rest of the world, but, rather, as a recorder for those involved in the events photographed. The distinction is crucial.’

‘What makes photographs like this so tragic and extraordinary is that, looking at them, one is convinced that they were not taken to please generals, to boost the morale of a civilian public, to glorify heroic soldiers, or to shock the world press: they were images addressed to those suffering what they depict. And given this integrity towards and with their subject matter, such photographs later become a memorial, to the twenty million Russians killed in the war, for those who mourn them. The unifying horror of a total people’s war made such an attitude on the part of the war photographers (and even the censors) a natural one. Photographers, however, can work with a similar attitude in less extreme circumstances.’

[The photograph cited is ‘Grief’ by Dmitri Baltermants, 1942.]    
In ‘Appearances’, he says,

‘What makes photography a strange invention – with unforeseeable consequences – is that its primary raw materials are light and time.’

Berger also puts into words, some basic things that a photograph does, even when we are not aware of it, most of the time.

‘Between the moment recorded and the present moment of looking at the photograph, there is an abyss. We are so used to photography that we no longer consciously register the second of these twin messages – except in special circumstances: when, for example, the person photographed was familiar to us and is now far away or dead. In such circumstances the photograph is more traumatic than most memories or mementos because it seems to confirm, prophetically, the later discontinuity created by the absence or death.’

He goes on to explain the role of the photographer thus:

‘The professional photographer tries, when taking a photograph, to choose an instant which will persuade the public viewer to lend it an appropriate past and future. The photographer’s intelligence or his empathy with the subject defines for him what is appropriate. Yet unlike the storyteller or painter or actor, the photographer only makes, in any one photograph, a single constitutive choice: the choice of the instant to be photographed. The photograph, compared with other means of communication, is therefore weak in intentionality.’

[It is implied that other choices like framing, lighting etc. come after the choice of the instant to be photographed.]

He then goes on to explain he ambiguity of a photograph. Taking the example of a photograph titled, ‘A group of Nazi troops and students gather seized papers and books to burn in the Opernplatz, Berlin, May 10, 1933’, he explains how the photograph would be ambiguous if not for the title. Even with the title, one needs to know history to fully understand the photograph. Then he poses this heavy question.
‘…it might be that the photographic ambiguity, if recognized and accepted as such, could offer to photography a unique means of expression. Could this ambiguity suggest another way of telling?’

There is an aspect of photography that Berger pointed out that I liked very much. Unlike other forms of art, like painting, photography does not differentiate between the objects it is capturing at a given point of time.

‘…The time which exists within a drawing is not uniform. The artist gives more time to what she or he considers important. A face is likely to contain more time than the sky above it. Time in a drawing accrues according to human value. In a photograph time is uniform: every part of the image has been subjected to a chemical process of uniform duration. In the process of revelation all parts were equal.’
[The only way this is changed is when the frame is lit up by the artist. But even then, usually, lighting up is a process by which the photographer tries to make the work visible to the medium. Earlier it was celluloid. Now the lighting up is done for digital. Exposure is and can, only be uniform. Except for rolling shutters which existed during Berger’s time too, there is no change in this. Even with all the technological advancement since.]

Now comes another important aspect which becomes clear when photographs are compared to painting. Photography does not have a language. It quotes from appearances. Renaissance paintings had a language. It varies from other forms of painting during other periods in history. But photograph is produced instantaneously and there is no use of language. Berger puts it like this

‘Photographs do not translate from experiences. They quote from them.’

This is the reason why photographs are considered to be authentic. Interesting thing noted by Berger is that, tampered photographs are in fact, a proof of this. It requires elaborate tampering to create a lie out of a photograph. A photograph as it is, cannot lie. Given this situation, he explains how then, photographs are ‘massively used to deceive and misinform.’

‘We are surrounded by photographic images which constitute a global system of misinformation: the system known as publicity, proliferating consumerist lies. The role of photography in this system is revealing. The lie is constructed before the camera. A “tableau” of objects and figures is assembled. This “tableau” uses a language of symbols (often inherited, as I have pointed out elsewhere, from the iconography of oil painting), [Read ‘Ways of Seeing’ by Berger for this ‘elsewhere’] an implied narrative and, frequently, some kind of performance by models with a sexual content. This “tableau” is then photographed. It is photographed [and not drawn] precisely because the camera can bestow authenticity upon any set of appearances, however false. The camera does not lie even when it is used to quote a lie. And so, this makes the lie appear more truthful.’

In ‘Stories’ is this line.

‘The term flashback is an admission of the inexorable impatience of the film to move forward.’

How true!

Another perfect analogy from Berger:

‘No story is like a wheeled vehicle whose contact with the road is continuous. Stories walk, like animals or men. And their steps are not only between narrated events but between each sentence, sometimes each word. Every step is a stride over something not said.’

In ‘W. Eugene Smith: Notes to help Kirk Morris Make a Documentary Film’, is something that can be attempted while making films.

‘…He sought a truth, which, by its nature, was not evident. It was waiting to be revealed by him and him alone. He wanted his images to convert so that the spectator might see beyond the lies, the vanity, the illusions of everyday life…’

Interesting observation

‘…the image of a Pieta – of the man-Christ dead in his mother’s lap. An image of tenderness and bereavement. The figure of the victim, suffering or dead, is, by its nature, horizontal. The figure of the healer or the mourner is vertical…’

‘Walking Back Home: Chris Killip: In Flagrante (with Sylvia Grant)’ has this beautiful quote from Killip.

‘I saw an elderly man with a Tesco carrier and a walking stick. I was on the escalator going down and the one going up was, as usual, broken. If there’s a certainty in life, it’s that the escalator going up is broken and your shopping bag’s full. He was walking up the endless stairs and mildly struggling. Only struggling mildly. If he had been more obviously disabled or had been a mother struggling with shopping and a pram, he would have rightly inspired sympathy. He was just a little, tired, unknown man struggling mildly. He was just an old man who had maybe paid his taxes, fought for his country. This beautiful individualism they talk of. By the time this particular man reaches the top of the stairs, his individual legs will feel too tired for this particular concept to bloom. Of course if he had power, money or even just a car, his individualism might flourish. I don’t understand what political people of power mean by that word. Lots of people I know on estates, in hospitals, in unemployment queues, now walk on their individual knees and their individual heads are bowed and they haven’t the energy to strengthen their individual spines.’  

‘A Man Begging in the Metro: Henri Cartier Bresson’ has this portion which was silly. Berger is talking about Bresson’s handwriting.

‘His handwriting is surprising because it’s maternal, it couldn’t be more maternal. Somewehere this virile man who was a hunter, who was a cofounder of the most prestigious photo-agency in the world, who escaped three times from a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany, who is a maverick anarchist and Buddhist, somewhere this man’s heart is that of a mother.’

Umm… so what is contradictory in that. What do you think mothers do and what makes you think it is in sharp contrast with the things you described as done by Bresson. His handwriting is ‘motherly’ probably because he did such motherly things. Duh!

‘We examine other drawings by his father and grandfather. Topographical landscapes of places they found themselves in. A family tradition, passed from generation to generation. Of minutely observing branches and patiently drawing leaves. Like embroidery, but with a male, lead pencil.’

God, what on earth, Berger! Like embroidery which they never learnt from the women who did it from generation to generation because they like you, assumed it was a woman-thing? How about that?

I think Berger is great at putting into words things which we never bothered to put into words, like this thing about writing in ‘Andre Kertesz: On Reading’, he says,

‘When words add up to sentences and sentences fill whole pages and the pages tell a story, the displacement becomes a journey and the pages become a vehicle, a means of transport. Nevertheless, while reading we hold the pages very still. Thus there is a tension between the manual gesture and the travelling. Long before man could fly, this journey was like flying. Those who first read Homer flew to Troy.’

In the correspondence found in ‘Martine Franck: Fax Foreword to One Day to the Next’, these line from some letters by Marine Franck.  

            ‘My grandfather killed himself falling off the dike in Ostend while photographing my two cousins. This can happen so easily when looking through a lens; for a split second nothing else exists outside the frame, and to get the right frame one is constantly moving forward, backward, to the side. A movie-cameraman is often guided, held, when filming; a photographer rarely. This year I am the same age as when my grandfather died.’

In another letter,

‘The camera is in itself a frontier, a barrier of sorts that one is constantly breaking down so as to get closer to the subject.’

Berger wrote, in a response,

‘Does one get less shy with age? Shyness is a strange thing. It’s not quite the same as being timid. Because there’s an element of curiosity in shyness, no? it’s to do with daring. That’s the paradox. It’s the adventurous who are shy.’

[Needless to say, i thought of her]

And later,

‘Unhappiness is often like a long novel. Happiness is far more like a photo!’

In ‘Between Here and Then: Mark Trivier’, I was so stunned to read a portion which resembled a scene which I had created for one of my short films. He is talking about the clock in his house throughout the essay.

            ‘Sometimes I forget to wind it up. When it stops, however, the inhabitual silence in the kitchen – which is the room we live in most of the time – attracts my attention and, standing on tiptoe, I open its door and rewind the mechanism with the key, kept on the mantelpiece to the right of the clock. Then with my forefinger I tap the pendulum gently to the left (never to the right), the ticking re-begins, and I invariably have the sensation that the kitchen, which was holding its breath during the silence, is breathing normally again.
…My ritual of reaching up to the clock high above my head, is like putting a bowl of water down on the floor for a silence to drink. Thirsty silences devastate.’  

The last article in the book is the one which I liked the best, that is, in it was the photographer I liked the best from the ones mentioned in the book. In Ahlam Shibli: Trackers’. In it, Berger, with the help of Frantz Fanon explains how and why violence is transferred from the perpetrator/colonizer to the colonized.

‘…Every encounter with another person works for the megalomaniac unlike a held-up mirror in which he sees himself reflected and decked out in his own glory. For the colonized, who has lost his sense of self, every encounter is a mirror in which he sees nothing but a soiled djalleba. Both held-up mirrors hide the other as she or he really is. And so it happens that the colonized, in order to dissociate himself from the soiled djalleba, dreams of wearing the uniform or carrying the flag of his oppressor. Not his enemy, his oppressor.’

Too many examples of this around. Women who persecute other women by joining the league of power holding men comes first to my mind.   

About the photographer whom I absolutely loved,

‘Ahlam Shibili herself comes from a Bedouin family. As a young girl she was herding goats in Galilee. Later, after studying at university, she became a photographer of international renown.
Long ago she made the opposite existential choice to the tackers whom she shows in these photos. She believes in the justice of the Palestinian cause and has protested as a patriot and a photographer against the illegal Israeli occupation. For her, as for most Palestinians, the trackers can be considered traitors. They have joined an army which is oppressing the Palestinian people and they stalk to kill and capture those who actively resist that army. Traitors… In certain circumstances, they must be treated as such.
Nevertheless Ahlam Shibili feels a need to go beyond, and search behind, the simplifying label. Because she is a Bedouin herself? Maybe, but the question is naïve. What counts is the result. Because she is Bedouin, she was able to search behind the label and discover what she had to discover. With these photographs she posed the question: what price are they paying for their decision to become trackers? Then she waited for the enigmatic answers which she found in her darkroom. And these she makes public.’

Check out her photographs. Check out all photographers mentioned in this book too.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Dreams April, May 2017, Bombay

  • Vai Vow dream about me. I am trying to save a mad woman who has come to SRFTI because i think SRFTI will treat her inhumanly. I run here and there and switch off the main power of SRFTI. Vai vow is running behind me worried and panicking asking me how i will be able to see if i turn off the power etc. The mad woman runs up a tall building. I get on a crane and go up there. Putul ma'am is on a bigger crane giving some instructions. I do some trapeze sort of act while on the crane etc. Vai Vow is worried. 
  • In the dream, Kunju Thalona and i were in a slum in Bombay. We were living there happily. Like Saroo and Guddu. Then, i get lost. Like Saroo. I ride a bike without knowing how etc. Auto driver - fight. He's trying to find out where i live. I am trying to trick him. 

Idea Repository: April, May, 2017 Bombay

  • A woman - mother getting raped by her son. Is this possible? How is growing up with a single mother for the boy. Of course he has a girlfriend and all that. Yet, how does he feel that he has the power. How does the power equation in such sexual violence work?
  • No strings attacked
  • Photoba: The pot belly of photos
  • Your protagonist - at office, in the smoking room, a girl switches off the light while she is still in there. At night, at home, her lover switches off the light when she is taking bath. 
  • The Coffee Culprit
  • കട്ടുറുമ്പിനെ കൊല്ലാതെ

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Films; April-May 2017 - Bombay

1. Angry Indian Goddesses

It is a film which should have been made, definitely, but maybe a bit differently? Like nobody is killed? Saw the cuts which were asked to be made by the CBFC. It is bullshit. What was wrong with the image of Kali which was blurred in the film? They couldn’t stand a woman’s legs and shorts in a suggestion shot? What was with asking the word 'sarkar' to be muted etc?
Why were they objectifying men? Is that the solution to objectification of women? Just like I suspected, it was a male director. Why was the Anglo Indian killed and raped? So in the end it always happens? Yes, the men get killed too, but is that the solution? What is, then? There are, a lot of problems which have been shown in the film which are genuine. The mother daughter thing was absolute crap. What was the need of it and it was against everything that was supposed to be have been told in the film.
Also it remains a fact that all these women are rich and of a certain background. The only dark skinned woman is, an activist who wears ‘activist’ clothes. The only other woman from another class, is Lakshmi, the maid. Her revenge? She gives it up in the end. She was the one who got the gun. She got slapped.
Cried like a baby, though.
[Everyone standing in the church was predictable]. Vai Vow made a joke. 'So all the people in the church knew the whole story till then?'
Why did the girl have to die? There is also a debate in the film which ends with women are women’s worst enemies. I felt that was the director talking. And note that there was no counter argument or retort for that statement. 

2. Bandit Queen

It is a great film. CBFC was a casteist male dick to have banned it. I remember watching it in Kairali Sree, that Women’s Film Festival for which Sethuvamma had (probably forcefully) taken me and Kunju Thalona. Both Sethuvamma and Kunju Thalona were all praises for the film and I was excited too even though I hadn’t understood a thing. So when I went back I was all excited and told Appachan the story as I had heard from both of them. A woman was raped and raped and raped, I had said, many times during my narration. Appachan, after listening to the whole story told me, that rape was a very big word, that it involved sex and I shouldn’t say that word. That it was enough that I said something bad. Like എന്തോ ചീത്ത എന്ന് സംഭവിച്ചു എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞാ മതി. I do remember that, clearly. I didn’t know what rape was, then. I didn’t know that I would get raped one day. Nor did Appachan.
Some scenes rang a bell. Mostly the lover scenes. And now, I think what will never leave my mind are other scenes. Many other scenes. I, anyway have to read her memoirs to understand the film. I got a feeling that it had not done full justice to it but let me not be the judge too soon. Update: Learnt that Phoolan Devi had objected to the film and moved the court and it had banned it. Currently reading her autobiography and already realizing that the film indeed, was an uppercaste male masnplaining a lower caste woman's story.
The film is really good in making and is a great production. Looks like a lot of money was spent too. First of all I want to see how Phoolan’s relationships with the two men, Manoj Bajpayee and her partner who gets killed. How it is in the book.
Also the last attack that Phoolan does. The way it has been told is to generate sympathy towards the dead upper caste men. The small boys wearing poonool and doing the last rites for their fathers. For the first time, I saw their poonool in the film in that scene.
Have to look up the director also. 
Some screenshots from the film below. For future reference. 

Screenshot from Bandit Queen. Seema Biswas as Phoolan Devi
3. Black Friday

Didn’t understand why the man made the film. There was already a book. He made a film which is like a book and added nothing to the information in terms of form or medium. Why waste so much money! Have to read the book now. Uff.

4. Cafe Society

Woody Allen film. Did not like it much. The Social Network actor goes to Hollywood and falls in love with Kristen Stewart. She is having  an affair with 'Office' boss guy. The guy looks like a manipulative abuser. Finally marries her also. Not much in the film. The Woody Allen narration is as usual. About Hollywood affairs and glitz and glamour and gossip. They love each other, end up being with other people and keep thinking of each other. What’s so great about it. Why did he have to make that film. The only thing that was good about it was that the two did not get together and live happily ever after, in the end. 

5. Fatso!

After watching Kahaani 2 we felt that we should watch more films together to ward off depression and other such problems. So then we watched this film which was in Vai Vow's laptop.
I liked it in some ways. This guy who dies and goes to after death place which is neither hell nor heaven and finds out that it is just like a government office. He finds out that he was brought there by mistake and that it was his friend whom they always call ‘Fatso’ who was supposed to die. Gul Panag is the dead guy’s girlfriend. They looked like a couple who was very happy. So now he has to go back to earth but in the body of Fatso because his own body has been cremated already. I liked it because it said that god didn’t exist and heaven and hell didn’t exist. Body shaming was not addressed properly and the girl falling in love with Fatso was not gradual enough. It happened all of a sudden and without enough provocation.
But the film is not that bad. 

6. Firaq

It is a really bold and beautiful debut film. The script is good, like Vai Vow said. I hated some dialogues. Much much much better than Parzania but there are problems of course. And again, no wonder it got banned. It says all that what Parzania said and more. That Hindus killed Muslims, engineered it, that violence continued for months, years after that, Muslims were leaving Gujarat out of fear, and everything. Felt that Nazuriddin Shah character was overdone. This Muslim poet is really something people should get rid of. Urdu sprinkled Hindi and all that. The old good Muslim ignorant of what happened in the world. There is one opening line that I liked. The house help at Shah’s place is saying bad things about him because he has not repaired the TV for long. Shah replies, who seemed to be not hearing what he was saying, that ‘But you can still hear everything, right’. 
Muslim assertion. Saying that I am a Muslim. It is really scary for the Hindu nation. That is the reality in India today and it has been shown. As it is.
The part where Nawazuddin Siddique is killed has been done so well. She is a really good director. The man is observing everything from upstairs. The police only has to tell him that the man who just ran away is a Muslim for him to tip the police man off which way  he went. Later he escapes from the police and rests under this man’s house. The man is still watching from his balcony. He goes back in silently, as though defeated. Meanwhile Siddique sees the boy he had left behind and smiles. His smile is shattered when the man throws a concrete block on his head from the balcony and kills him. It is that easy. Nobody is going to ask you anything. The police man will probably come back and congratulate him.
The bindi should not be worn these days. It is used to identify people. The visible signs of hindus should be avoided. Is it protest? Who knows, but may be we should see what it does  to understand what it means. How would the RSS react if there was a ban on bindi. 

7. Fire

Makes sense why the Censor Board did not release the film. Indian men just couldn’t take all the feminism.
Towards the end the film really gathers momentum and becomes really something.
The fire in Nandita Das is seen from the time she enters the house. She goes to the room and wears pants. She plays music and dances.
There is another woman in the house and looks like all the elder brother cares for is her. His mother. Even in the end when his wife is burning, he picks up his mother and leaves. A frail woman who can be picked up – okay for men.
Layers. There are a lot of layers to the film script wise and making wise. Deepa Mehta’s style was really good back then I wonder what her current films are like. Should watch all of them. I am not sure if I liked the mustard field dream/flashback of wanting to see the ocean and the mother asking the little girl to imagine it all. Beautiful cinematography by the way. Forgot to look up who did it.
Husband refusing to have sex with wife is all very okay. Both the husbands are like that in the film. But when these two women find their desire and reject sex with their husbands, they just can’t stand it.
It was Delhi, the city. In films I seem to like it. Will I in real life? Sure is spacious than Bombay.  I liked space. The curtains and the terrace.
It was odd listening to it in English. It’s funny. These days Hindi films which are 80% English are also okay but when it is a film like this somehow sounds very artificial.
I didn’t like the use of music in the film.
Isn’t it interesting that women find love in all places. It always happens. The two women found love along with desire. They made plans to run away.

8. Five

Abbas Kiarostami’s long takes dedicated to Ozu. Didn’t like it. May be I am not mature enough but so be it. Liked the long take with ducks. It was funny. And choosing the sea is kind of convenient when it comes to long takes, don’t you think? That is, perhaps the only thing human beings like looking at for a long time. Isn’t it? Fell asleep watching it with Vai Vow. Watched 4 out of 5. 

9. Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

Interesting. A very powerful Chief of Police is shown murdering his ‘mistress’. We get to know that she is a married woman. The Chief leaves a lot of evidence around and is a very powerful man. His point is to prove that he is above suspicion. Which he looks like in the beginning. Later we come to know how the woman had liked power very much and how they used to enact various murder postures and click pictures of them etc. But the man’s problem is ultimately that his power was not working with the woman. He hated her calling him a child. Later to make him angry, she yells that he is indeed a child and makes love like a child. She starts having an affair with someone else and the Chief becomes very jealous. The new lover is also a rebel. The government calls itself democratic but is really fascist. They are constantly hunting down students and their protest. Yet in the end even after the man confesses, nobody is willing to take him seriously. They only cover up the crime and destroy evidence. Sexual jealousy and how the Chief fails in all the tests. In front of the young rebel whom the woman chose over him. During interrogation it becomes clear that the student has power over him. This play of power is very important and nicely portrayed. The last scene in which the man draws blinds in the room and we see him and his colleagues standing in the room through the closing blinds is something that can be copied. Movement of camera, a slight tilt down will look good with it. Try other movements as well.
Hated the background music.

10. Kahaani 2

Vai Vow and I watched together. I am depressed because I am pregnant. Horrible thoughts in head all the time. This film viewing together took both of our minds away from all the fear. For some time. Didn’t like the film one bit but liked seeing Kolkata and its people again. Why is Kahaani 2 not about the same woman in Kahaani 1?
In this one, what I liked the best is the portrayal of child sexual abuse. When every attempt fails, Vidya Balan says ‘yahaa aur yahaa touch karte hai to bura lagta hai’. Then the child says yes, ‘mujhe bhi’. Then there is the grandmother who is colluding with the uncle. Who tells the girl that it is all her fault. The lecture that Vidya Balan gives her saying how can a 6  year old child know about what is love and what is abuse is also well done. But otherwise the film fails in all ways.
It is not Vidya Balan’s film. Arjun Rampal who saves everyone is the hero.
You can upload the portions in Kahaani 2 which  speaks about abuse in YouTube. 

11. Lion

The thing that I liked the best about the film came in the end. It said that Saroo was pronouncing his name wrong all the time and he was actually named Sheroo which means, the title of the film, Lion. But it was really funny, listening to the Australian woman talking about how she got a vision when she was a teenager, of a ‘brown’ boy. So the whole adoption thing was not because she could not have children, she says, self righteously, it was because she had a vision. It was one of the things which made the couple fall in love, she said. So the ‘brown’ boy in front of her was sitting there because this white woman had a vision when she was a teenager. Ha ha. And he is supposed to feel grateful for it. Ha ha ha.
But the film was really really well made. Towards the end, that is, after the boy grew up into the older version, I kind of lost interest and it was no longer told with love, the story, but the first part was so brilliant! The boy who loves jalebis, who says that he will eat 2000 jalebis when the older boy returns. The young actor was impossible and so sweet. I really loved the way Nawazzidun Siddique episode was told. The little child senses that there is something wrong. That something is really wrong. And we get to know that he senses it. The landscape, was shown beautifully, and how it is an integral part of the place. That longing for the landscape which only people who have been displaced in some way or the other can understand. Cried, yes.
The girlfriend angle was not really required, was it? Like her mother and cancer, that dialogue itself was not required. Some stories are beautiful because it is a true story. Spotlight was one like that, for me. This one, I felt should have been imagination, somehow. Felt that it would have been incredible if it  had not been a true story. Don’t know why.
Incredible debut film, I should say. 

12. Luck By Chance

Liked the film in a lot of ways. Found it boring in between. Was waiting for it to get over in the second half because it was quite loose, the narration. But there are, so many things that the director has done in this film which are really required. I wonder if this film was made before or after 'Om Shanti Om'. In a lot of ways, it is Om Shanti Om’s predecessor if it was made before. If made after, it was kind of a feminist side to Om Shanti Om, in that it tried to address certain issues that Om Shanti Om could have addressed and did not.
Casting couch. Patriarchy in film industry. 'Om Shanti Om' touches on the subject, yes, but not in the way 'Luck by Chance' does. Liked it that in the end Konkana Sensharma tells the man who apologises to her that even then everything is about him, how she can be an anchor to him. Her career as an actor or her as a person does not figure anywhere in the scheme of things. The woman becomes independent and happy, in the end.
The portrayal of mother and daughter competing for the young guy’s attention sucked. Later these areas were touched upon by the scoop writer. I saw Filmistan studio which is in SV road in the film. Very near my house where I was watching the film from. Bollywood really is Bombay.
Anurag Kashyap’s role suited his character very well. He is called ‘institute’ for saying crap. It was really funny. Dimple Kapadia talks about how she was made to sleep with the producer at the age of sixteen by her mother. The blame is on the mother in the dialogue but it is referring to the problem of casting couch.  

13. Moonlight

Liked certain things. Did not like certain things. Did not like the film. It is a full circle of a black boy becoming a drug seller. The story begins with a drug seller finding the boy, bullied by other boys because he is a ‘faggot’. He is bullied in school because he is gay. It also says something indirectly, that he is going to die. Because in the second part, as though it is natural, the first drug dealer was dead. The film didn’t work because of the way the story was told. I liked the story of black people looking blue in the moon that the first drug dealer says. Blaming the mother is still very much there. Don’t know about the psychology of the viewer. Does the viewer feel that it is the mother’s fault? There is one line in which the old drug dealer says that he misses his mother now and he used to hate her too and that that was all that he was going to say about it. Is it really that simple?
Yes, noticed that the cast was all black. It was really great to watch. And the actor was really good. Because in the end when he is with his lover, he becomes the old boy. The white Oscar committee must have loved the film and given it Oscar because all black, all drug and guns and violence and drug doers. Must have been heaven for them?

14. Paanch

Anurag Kashyap shit again. Did not like it one bit. Didn’t even like Kay Kay in it. He didn’t have Menon attached to his name in credits. Need to see if he dropped it. [Wikipedia has it.] What on earth was the  film about. A very predictable story in which Kay Kay is the bully don and thinks he is mad. Has Van Gogh and Kafka mentioned on his wall but writes Morrison as his last name. Thinks he is Lucifer and his hairdo seems to be to imitate devil. How pathetic. Men really think that such stories need to be told. Whaaaai!
I predicted the ‘twist’ in the story correctly. That Kay Kay is not dead. And that the girl had gone back to the station to say that. And he, in the end, like a pathetic loser, Kashyap wrote that the girl was also caught. Because he was too scared that it would give the ‘wrong’ message. Then why make the film in the first place, idiot! This film did not get a release because censor board did not give certificate. Never thought I would say this, but thank you censor board. [I am completely against all kinds of censorship by the Board and think even bad films like these should be called bad films and banned only by the viewer. That no body has the right to deny the viewer that. But sometimes some films make you feel so bad that you end up thanking the Board for banning them!]


About Gujarat riots. No wonder it was banned. It says that the Gujarat riots were pre planned. That the Hindu right wing was behind it, that it was engineered and orchestrated by Modi and with police protection. It is still scared, the film, because it tried to say it through the point of view of a foreigner who wants to do research on Gandhi. There is a man who looks like Ghoshal, a Hindu man, who provides insight to this foreigner. Also the protagonist family from which Parzan goes missing is Parsi. Not muslim. The concept of all religions are one and the same etc tried. But it spoke the truth. Showed the brutal killings. The participation of the police and everything. No wonder it was banned. Yeah. 

16. Sansaara

Beautiful film of beautiful pictures from across the world. Didn’t like the filmmaker’s commentary on some of it. Like mechanization of people and fat people eating meat leading to obesity. How typical. But the film is really something. Some of the images really need to be shown to the world. As if to see itself in a mirror. The Buddhist monks painting with coloured powder. In the end they demolish the whole painting created so painstakingly. In the film it is kind of done like a statement. Like that’s how the world is, the beginning, the end, the full cycle kind of a thing. But these statements are not  what is important. What the  film achieved is much more than what the maker intended. It is a rare thing to happen. The portrayal of aborigines was problematic. Somehow them looking into the camera felt violent. There was something wrong in them doing that. It felt as if the director had instructed them to do it for the certain kind of feeling it would generate, cinematically and that they were not at  home doing it. Japan is like Bombay. High rises and big factories and slums. So many sights of so many places that I had never seen in my life and never ever imagined seeing. The climax was so climactic and it is very difficult to do that in this sort of a film. He achieved it. 

17. Seven Samurai

I don’t think I will like any of this man’s films. May be some other period of life. As I am typing this, Vai Vow is piercing my thigh with a pen. He is asking me to consider the framing of the film. Mansplaining, basically. I liked this frame in which the title is being displayed in the end. The four tombs of the dead Samurai plus the three alive ones. And the lovers in the forest, the first time, I knew that the boy was going to go to romance when I saw him pluck the flower. In their love story, the flowers frame is something I really liked. Why do men make it sound like some things are really great and that there is something called the ‘greater’ cinema. The division between commercial and art is also, in a way, that. Like how time and space was for you. Discovering things happen later and I am not even sure if I discovered time and space because of this pressure or if it was a coincidence. In fact, it was there, may be, and I wasn’t calling it that. Or what is it?
If you want slut shaming reference, plenty in the film. The wife who went with the bandits or the bandits raped and took her. The above mentioned woman who is made to look like a man. After the guy and the girl make love, father gives a slut shaming speech. But this is one of those films in which the woman does NOT get pregnant after having sex just once. At least not during the reel time. Not specified. 

18. Sins

Detailed review and a study coming up later. The film is absolute bullshit. About rape by a Malayalee priest played by Shiney Ahuja. I don't know if the film or his acting was worse.  

19. The Danish Girl
Cried so much watching it. Just watching the love of the painter’s wife. How much she loved that man. How much she loved him. I just can’t believe. The film begins with a painting exhibition in which someone is telling the wife that don’t you wish you could paint like your husband some day.
The film could be about the woman also. The man’s childhood friend who later comes into the picture says that when he cuts the call. That Some Danish Girl is waiting to see him.
The way she kisses the friend guy after she has a fight  and at that moment I thought WHAT AN ACTRESS! Later Vai Vow told me she won Oscar for best supporting actor. She should have won it for best actor. The man has also acted really well. He is so beautiful!
The dialogues are so beautiful.
Need to read the book. Put in wishlist.
Update: The book does not seem to be available. 

20. The White God

Hungarian film about dogs that I did not like and Vai Vow liked. Apparently Un Certain Regarde winner it is, but what the fuck is this film! Dogs taking revenge? For human supremacy? I mean because of human supremacy? [Confession. I am a human supremacist and i believe that human beings are above animals.] Then why are they in the end again subservient and lying down in front of the girl’s music? What happened to the grand plan of revenge? Hated the whole revenge part. The music thing was nice. But did not like it. I can’t understand the politics. It is not preaching equality. It is only preaching subservience. 

21. Aankhon Dekhi

(23rd April 2017)

The one in which it starts like 'American Beauty'. The male voice over is the protagonist's. Changes happen to this man in the film. Like a coming of age of an older person. In the end he dies. [Jumps off a cliff to understand if he can fly] The film Amaresh had shown us once - 'Toto the Hero' also had something similar, I believe. The narrative device is also the same.
However, it is funny how for Indian men, revelations happen but no feminism. The enlightened man comes home and hands over his stuff to his wife, never pays attention. The wife’s problems are never even addressed. Why is it that they always think that enlightenment lies outside his relationship with people around him. Strange.
It is about this guy’s spiritual journey which starts with him thinking that nothing can be believed until he himself sees and verifies it. He gets followers and his philosophies keep changing, ending in gambling. Commits suicide in the end. The man who plays the role of the brother is the director of the film. Acting is really nice and I loved the man’s daughter. She is a good actor.

22. American Honey

Liked the film. It’s a bildungsroman. Coming of age of this girl. Liked the ending especially. Also how she leaves her siblings? back home when going on this trip. She thinks she is in love with Jake, the man who is kind of the leader of this band. There is a woman who is their head. Sexual jealousy and everything. Liked it when the truck driver asks her what her dream is and she says that no one has ever asked her that question. Later she asks it to Jake and he says that nobody has ever asked him that question. Really liked the ending in which everyone is singing the American Honey song and later Jake is there and pulls her, gives her a turtle. She releases the turtle into a pond and dips herself in it. The music stops abruptly when she emerges. It was beautiful. Why was she shown removing the condom?  
Jake and his sexual jealousy, the only thing he is concerned about is if she ‘fucked’ that man. He touches or fingers her and smells his fingers to see if he can ‘smell’ another man. What the fuck. Seemed like this fucker the man who used to beat me up. He had such weird jealousy issues. 

23. Her

I was asked a million times to watch this film. By a million people. So I watched it the other day after four years of everyone telling me that. I cried. And thought of her. You see, I have a her in my life too and she is away from me now.
‘Her’ by Spike Jonze is a beautiful film. Not every day do you get to see an honest portrayal or human relationships, love, jealousy and every other emotion that we, as a race are capable of. I have no idea how it was achieved. The beautiful script must have helped, surely. The music and the edit and the cinematography and shot taking were all designed especially for this. Oh well, that’s all of the film I am talking about.
These days I think a lot about her. May be because she is away and every time she goes away I fall into this recapitulation of my memories with her.
The film spoke about love. It has been two days since I watched the film and still sometimes I drift to ‘Her’s time and space. The grey of the film and her voice. I felt so sad watching the film. I felt bad for humans who are incapable of more than one love. Humans think they own the things they love. Or they love the things they own.
But Artificial Intelligence does not follow these rules. Her in ‘Her’ constantly updates herself by imbibing the emotions she experiences. She grows at a tremendous speed and soon outshines human love which owns the things they love and love the things they own. Quickly they learn that humans are not capable of understanding their love and they leave. Quietly.
Do you know what I liked the best about the film? It is that it told the story of her and not him. You see when the operating system is being installed you have the option to choose a male voice or a female voice. Theodore Twombly chooses a female voice. That’s how Samantha enters. At this point I would like to tell you that I don’t think that Theodore is the hero of the film. I think it’s Samantha. You’ll also notice that another character who develops a relationship with her OS is Amy and her OS also, incidentally is female. Since the film has a brilliant script and also because generally in films nothing is a coincidence, I loved the decision.
Her-the film got inside me just like how she did. There is no point trying to explain what she means to me or where this analogy is going. I write when I am sad. Yesterday I read a note that she’d written addressed to me and then cried like a baby and caught cold. Cold is what I hate the most in the world. When you have cold and you smoke, you feel like you are smoking through a water pipe coming all the way from under the ground. She knows love the best. I love her so much.
You know what? We have a system here. We write the name of the film we watched that day on a slate hung on our window every day. An exercise to make us watch films so that we don’t forget that we are filmmakers and while doing other jobs also make films. When it was my turn to write I wrote ‘She’ instead of ‘Her’. I don’t know what that means. It’s only when Vai Vow started laughing that I realized that I had made a mistake.
You know if she ever watches the film ‘Her’ she is going to smirk and say, ‘Poor fellows, I have been talking about this for at least ten years now’ which, in fact, might be true. Since she knows the best about love and she gives a lot of love away, she has also mastered the craft that Samantha possesses in ‘Her’. To love and to let go.
24 The Wrestler

The Wrestler is by Darron Aronofsky that man who made 'Requiem for a Dream'. Requiem was much better. I didn’t like the film much. Don’t think the bar dancer and daughter characters were required. What was achieved with that? The bar dancer come to his last match and all that, what was that? And the film could have ended long ago, with just the man entering or making him do the 'ram jam' again. If the death was not to be shown, the advent of the heart attack also need not have been shown. I really really loved the actor. The actor alone would have done. 

25. Under the Skin

Didn’t like the film as a whole but the treatment is something I liked. Why are people obsessed with this female character who seduces people and kills them? Liked the use of tele in this. Like with the eye and everything. The woman examining her own nudity is also something I liked. But in that case the Director’s POVs should have been completely avoided. There was an opacity thing that was done before the first attempted rape where she was sleeping in a cavern and the trees in the forest were swaying over her sleeping face. Then she wakes up to a stranger doing things to her body. Rape scenes scare me. But should we actually show rape like that? Is it building a definition of rape where there is physical violence involved etc?