Art: Noise Life by Desire Machine Collective

It’s been a while since I wrote about an art show and while writing a review of DMC’s Noise Life had me tearing my hair for a bit, I have missed writing about art.

The review was first published on Mumbai Boss. Here’s an excerpt:

Beyond the sonic force field created by the projection, the video and the floor installation (made of speakers), Noise Life has two objects: a table and a cabinet. The well-used and unremarkable table emits the rhythmic clicking of a typewriter at work. From the cabinet, you hear the high-pitched squeal of a dot matrix printer from time to time. They’re objects that make noises from another time; noises that don’t match the objects but are synonymous with the idea of creating a record. That’s when it strikes you that tables and cabinets like these have filled countless offices where people with varying degrees of power have decided which story — and whose — would be heard and which wouldn’t.

Noise Life is not a show that’s easily accessible and it takes pride in being difficult. This is, after all, an artist collective and exhibition inspired by the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, whose hard to pronounce surnames are the first indication of how impenetrable their writings are. Fortunately, you don’t have to have read Deleuze or understand terms like “schizoanalysis” to find Noise Life thought provoking. Ultimately, Noise Life is about stories — the ones that survive in memory and sensations, as well as those contained in files and archives.

Links: August catch-up

Eep. It’s been ages since I updated this. Here are the links from end-July and August. 

Why did the Censor Board cut four minutes of The Grand Budapest Hotel?

My review of Kick, the new Salman Khan blockbuster.

The schizo boss in the new Airtel ad.

Five things teaches you about Indian psychiatrists.

My review of Hercules.

My review of Lucy.

Remembering Kishore Kumar on his birthday.

Book review of Private India, by Ashwin Sanghi and James Patterson.

My review of Guardians of the Galaxy.

My review of The 100-Foot Journey. 

My review of Akshay Kumar’s Entertainment.

RIP, Robin Williams.

If there was a Navaratna of storytellers in post-independence India, who would be in it?

My review of Njan Steve Lopez.

My review of Singham Returns.

The real love story in Singham Returns.

Korean pop, Mary Kom and more.

On Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda (yes, indeed. I listened to Nicki Minaj. And then wrote about her. Life is cruel).

My review of Mardaani.

Live-blogging Emmys 2014. 

Red carpet highlights from Emmys 2014.

Links: The Grand Budapest Hotel in India

There was a time when we were grateful when a foreign film got an India release. Now that Hollywood blockbusters come to India almost at the same time as they are released everywhere else, some of us are becoming a bit more demanding. So while it’s lovely that The Grand Budapest Hotel has been released in India, it’s deeply disappointing that the Censor Board decreed that four minutes of it be snipped off. Which four minutes and why were they objectionable? Glad you asked.

the Censor Board doesn’t want The Grand Budapest Hotel to teach Indian audiences how to break out of jail using tiny tools that were hidden in chocolate-based confectionery.

Read the whole piece, complete with a detailed description of the most offending scene as per the Indian Censor Board.

My review of Wes Anderson’s latest film is here. It’s a gem and definitely my favourite of his filmography so far. This longer rambling post explains why.


Links: Madhu Kishwar, Mary Kom and more

Don’t go by her Twitter feed alone. Madhu Kishwar can make excellent, sensible arguments.  Her critique of the existing Women’s Reservation Bill is bang on target.

In stark contrast to some of the opinions Kishwar puts forward on Twitter, these are all well thought-out and sensible ideas that respond much more sensitively to the lopsided gender balance in Indian politics than the existing bill. The alternative bill is discussed in greater detail here.

As the document observes, “the participation of women in [Indian] politics has actually declined since the days of freedom movement.” It’s a statistical fact that tends to go unnoticed because there are a number of prominent Indian women politicians in play. However, this doesn’t mean that Indian women are adequately represented. India ranks 105th in the world when it comes to women’s participation in politics. That’s 53 places behind Pakistan, in case you were wondering.

However, while a bill to encourage more women candidates would be welcome, it’s worth keeping in mind that regulations are not enough to ensure the gender imbalance is fixed in actuality. According to the constitution of the Indian National Congress, 33% of seats in different committees as well as 33% of the seats for the AICC are reserved for women. In reality, only five of the 42 in the CWC are women and six of the 57 members of the AICC are women candidates. Thirty of the 35 state screening committees for elections don’t have a single women in them. The CPI(M) that has been so vocal about criticizing past governments for not pushing the women’s reservation bill has an abysmal record of its own: only one of the 12 members in its politbureau is a woman. …

In her article, Kishwar writes, “whatever the form and shape of the women’s reservation law, we cannot overlook the tragedy inherent in the fact that 67 years after Independence, women need to seek the quota route to entry in politics. This acquires more poignancy because, when the Constitution was coming into force, most prominent women leaders refused to accept the principle of reservation as a route to political power. They did so in the belief that as in the Mahatma Gandhi-led freedom movement, they would be able to carve out a respectable space for themselves without being offered crutches.”

Two quick pieces on the upcoming film biopic on Indian boxer Mary Kom’s life. Kom is being played by Priyanka Chopra, which should be a baffling choice but tragically, in India, it isn’t.


In this one, I’ve tried to explain why Chopra isn’t a good choice to play Kom. This was written right after the film’s poster was unveiled. A few days later, the trailer came out, which was when I wrote this.

At one point in the trailer, Mary throws a chair at a podium and, with tears in her eyes, yells, “I am an Indian! India mera dil mein hai!” (India is in my heart.) You may wonder why she’s saying this because being Indian is not just in her heart but also quite obviously on her face too; and in her Hindi accent. Kom’s Manipuri identity was something that proved to be an obstacle for her on occasion, and given how she’s widely celebrated now as a national hero, she clearly overcame that hurdle in style. That’s a story that we won’t be hearing in Kumar’s Mary Kom.

The piece on why choosing a North Indian to play someone from the North East of India is offensive is here. The critique of the trailer is here.

And I’m back

…which means I have blogpost full of links to put up. So here we go…

bobby_jasoos_vidyaMy review of Bobby Jasoos:

There’s an effervescent sweetness to Bobby Jasoos, written by Sanyukta Chawla and directed by Samar Sheikh. It’s Sheikh’s first film, but his direction is assured and he has marshalled his technical team smartly. Hyderabad looks beautiful without seeming fake. The pace of the film is spritely and not for a moment during its two hours does Bobby Jasoos drag.

Chawla’s done a wonderful job of putting together a simple, imperfect story that ties its loose ends and is filled with memorable characters. It’s not watertight and it doesn’t necessarily make complete sense, but this is Bollywood. As long as it’s fun and convincing, we’ll go with it.

Read the whole piece here.

My review of The Fault in Our Stars:

The Fault in Our Stars has the technical sophistication of a film made by a high school student with their handycam. The cinematography is flat and uninspired, which is a feat in itself since a large part of the film is set in the beautiful city of Amsterdam. The script by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber is not only awkward and dull, it actually manages to make the original novel seem very flawed in its logic. Why, for instance, does Hazel, with her intensive knowledge of the cancer-verse, not wonder about Make-A-Wish granting Augustus’s wish with such haste when his cancer is in remission? And why would anyone travel from Holland to America only to hand deliver the printout of an email?

Read the whole piece here.

On the latest effort to score some publicity by using Disney princesses:

The posters present a ‘what if?’ scenario. What if the loving father is actually a pervert? What if the happily-ever-after reveals itself to be violently-ever-after? There is undoubtedly a great need to increase awareness about CSA and encourage those who have been abused or been threatened with abuse to come forward and break patterns of violence. However, would this poster make a child feel like they can report what they’ve undergone?

Read the whole piece here.

Trying to figure out what Yo Yo Honey Singh thinks is hip hop.

Remembering RD Burman‘s wonderful, wonderful music on his 75th birth anniversary

When the whole brouhaha with Dr. Harsh Vardhan and his views on sex education started, the general opinion was outrage that he was against the idea. I was more mystified by how he seemed to suggest yoga was a substitute for sex education. After I wrote this, suddenly everyone was talking about the yoga-sex education link. Giggle.

Complaining that he was “disappointed” with how the New York Times had used his quote, Vardhan clarified in a public statement on Facebook that the reason he recommended abstinence is that condoms can break.

This is true. Condoms can indeed break, but that happens very, very rarely. Don’t believe the Mills & Boons. Condoms work way more often than they fail. Also, if you know how to use a condom properly, the chances of it breaking are reduced even further. And how would one know about using a condom? Well, you could go to a sex education class. There an instructor would tell you that you shouldn’t use old condoms, that you’ve got to be careful to not tear the condom while opening the packet, and that you must always leave space between the tip of the condom and the head of the penis.

Contrary to the suggestion in Vardhan’s document of replacing “so called ‘sex education’” with compulsory yoga, that ancient Indian practice does not offer these critical pieces of information. It does, however, improve your flexibility and focus, which, if Sting is to be believed, can help one’s sex life considerably. (As usual, his wife’s take on the whole matter is a little different.)

On words as weapons of abuse, Preity Zinta and Ness Wadia:

Words are not powerless paper planes, idling through the air. Depending upon the intent of the speaker, they’re more like drones — targeted and lethally damaging. They stick to people, damage psyches and colour reputations. Words define us. Good girl, momma’s boy, slut, iron man, pappu — we see ourselves and others through lenses made of words. Just as the praises stick, so do the abuses and frequently, the latter can inflict great damage. Except now, with so many reports of serious physical violence being inflicted upon women, the damage from words doesn’t seem serious enough to warrant a reaction.

Read the whole piece here.

On Humshakals, idiocy and box office success.

My review of Humshakals.

Talking to Uday Chopra about becoming a Hollywood producer:

On the basis of his experience so far, Chopra acknowledges that the way the industry works in Los Angeles is “very different” from what he is used to back home, but Chopra doesn’t feel he is at a disadvantage. “In terms of the creative process, because of my background here [in Bollywood], it wasn’t much of a learning curve,” said Chopra.

Read the whole piece here.

My review of The World Before Her:

Pahuja halfheartedly tries for a political angle at certain points in The World Before Her, but the film’s strength isn’t in the statement it makes about Hindu nationalism or the role that camps like Durga Vahini play when there’s communal violence. The power of The World Before Her is its sensitive alertness to how these two very different platforms for Indian women both appear to be rotten planks. For all their apparent differences, Durga Vahini and Miss India have a lot in common.

Read the whole piece here.

From NYIFF, a review of the documentary, An American in Paris:

This is filmmaker Ellis R Dungan’s life, as remembered in An American in Madras, a documentary directed by Karan Bali. Back in the 1930s and 1940s, India was home to a number of Americans and Europeans, many of whom worked in the film industries of Bombay and Madras despite not knowing the language in which the local movies were made. Dungan is one of them. He could manage broken Tamil at best, but despite this limited knowlege, he directed 12 Tamil films, edited most of them himself and is credited with bringing professionalism and modernism into the industry and movie-making. Among his most celebrated works is Meera, starring MS Subbulakshmi. Dungan’s films were also launching pads for the careers of legendary figures like Karunanidhi (as a scriptwriter) and MG Ramachandran (as an actor).

Read the whole piece here.

From NYIFF, my review of Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly:

There’s a little bit of Fargo, a hint of The Killing and a lot of red herrings in Ugly. It’s not a startling original film in either concept or execution, but it’s engaging enough in the first act. After that, the pace falters and the film becomes increasingly slack. One can’t help wondering if Kashyap stretched the film to 128 minutes because it would make the film seem more value for money than a 85 or 90 minute film.

Read the whole piece here.


Links: Reviews, Oscar drinking game, snubs and more

This round-up is long overdue and I’ve been delaying this only because I’m not sure how to organise two-pages worth of links. So now I’m biting the bullet and dismissing any prospect of organisation. These are just links, in no particular order.

The Lego Movie is, without a doubt, one of the most awesome movies I’ve seen. (Spaceship! Spaceship! Spaceship!) (Everything is awesome!) Sure, it’s product placement, but it’s also adorable and very, very clever. And maybe even a little subversive.

Recently, The Times of India published an article that said Aleph had recalled copies of On Hinduism by Wendy Doniger from bookstores in Bangalore. It’s not quite clear what’s happening with On Hinduism because Aleph has only issued an odd, confusing statement. However, the Doniger affair began with Penguin deciding to withdraw and pulp existing copies of her book, The Hindus. More on freedom of expression here.

Marathi cinema is seeing something of a resurgence, after having been squashed and starved by Hindi blockbusters. One of the films that proves this renaissance is the gorgeous and heartbreaking Fandry.

A review of Gunday, which is perhaps the most graphic Bollywood bromance I’ve seen.

Nishtha Jain’s documentary on activist Sampat Pal, Gulabi Gang, is an interesting documentary on Pal and her organisation. There’s always so much eager to attack men and families that are strangers or unrelated. When it’s one of the Gulabi Gang’s own who is involved, everything becomes more complicated.

My review of Highway, a film that I thought was ok right after watching it. In hindsight, the more I think about it, the less I like it, particularly the end where the victim of a kidnapping imagines herself and her kidnapper as children, gambolling around a picturesque countryside. Because you know, that’s what kidnap is: child’s play.

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting great insight from Shaadi Ke Side Effects, but neither did I expect the film to unravel as much as it did.

There’s a new season of actor Aamir Khan’s talk show, Satyamev Jayate, on Indian television.

A quick compilation of the best film nominations at the Oscars and a list of some of the films that the Oscars snubbed this year.

Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, which is slow but just such a wonderful, contemporary look at Americana. He’s so good at capturing family dynamics and making the seemingly dysfunctional reveal itself as strangely endearing.

Ok, I admit I liked watching the Oscars as a kid. I got up at the crack of dawn and took great joy in the fact that I was in my jammies while the red carpet stars had to scrub themselves into their high fashion. But let’s face it, not only have the Oscars revealed themselves to be the product of much lobbying, even the dresses aren’t as much fun as they used to be. Remember JLo wearing a dupatta held together by a brooch? Tilda Swinton in her kaftan? Now the Oscars is the kind of do to which someone like Lady Gaga comes wearing a totally regular dress. So disappointing. However, since I’d have to get up and watch it, I figured a drinking game was the best way to make Oscars fun.

Two pieces on Gulaab Gang: a review and a piece that was written when the Delhi High Court initially agreed with Sampat Pal’s claim that Gulaab Gang was defamatory.

By far the best chick flick I’ve seen come out of Bollywood is Queen, with Ranaut delivering a brilliant performance (and superb dialogues) as a young Dilliwali who conquers Europe and herself.



Links: 12 Years A Slave, One By Two, August: Osage County & more

Three film reviews, one sputterance and one obituary.

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave is a powerful film. It’s arguably not quite as nuanced as McQueen’s last two films, but then again, this is a film about slavery. Not really an institution known for its nuances.

One By Two is the first crack in my 2014 resolution to not watch godawful films.

august_osage_county_ver3Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to be too moved by August: Osage County. I thought this adaptation of Tracy Letts’s play would basically circle around Tennessee Williams territory. But August: Osage County is a vicious, heartbreaking film that seriously questions our adoration of the conventional family. By the time August: Osage County drew to a close, I desperately needed a cupcake.

Rahul Gandhi gave an interview to Arnab Goswami that would have been entirely fitting had it been in a Prakash Jha film. Since it wasn’t, I sputtered.

Finally, a piece remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s brilliant acting career. Hoffman was found dead in his Manhattan apartment with a needle in his arm. When I wrote this piece, there wasn’t confirmation about precisely how much heroin was found. It turns out there were some 70-odd pouches of the stuff. That is utterly insane.