Thursday, 10 December 2015

My Brand of Feminism

Damn Straight.
In my office, at the women’s magazine I work for, I’ve often been branded a ‘flagrant feminist’ (an idea I find entertaining given that I work in a space that’s about as ‘by women, for women’ as it can get). This tag comes with some degree of respect, some degree of amusement—and even a modicum of disdain.

But I find it’s because my idea of what a feminist makes is too far out for many folk to grasp. It‘s ‘too much’, too insanely full of ideals that many of the people I know would rather not commit to. It makes people stare at me with awe and, often, with complete and utter flabbergasted-ness, and makes them check some of their sentences with the prefix “I’m not a feminist like you are…” meaning that their brand of feminism fell short of mine, in some way, shape or form and so I might judge their comments to come from my pedestal of feminist upstanding.

But that’s the thing—what the fuck is feminism? Who decides if I’m more feminist than the next person? Should feminism be allowed to be a choice for a woman? Should it not, like breasts and PMS, come naturally in the time with which you process it? And...does my proclaiming that come across as aggressive—a trait people associate with ‘my brand’ of feminism?

When I hear people cloaking their sexist expectations in the quick guise of the words “I mean, of course I’m a feminist, but I love me a guy who’ll hold the door open for me…” I wonder if, even though the notion of this term is a touch free-flowing, shouldn’t it NOT be okay for people to just emblazon the label of “Proud Feminist” on their chests, with the addendum of a million ‘exceptions’ in the fine print?

So, perhaps, even though there will be more eloquent definitions and by-laws than my own, I thought it might be wise (for my own clarity, more than any other purpose) to lay down some tenets of ‘my brand’ of feminism:

1)   The idea of equal pay for equal work is something I champion thoroughly. However, in a world where this goal comes to fruition, it should no longer be okay for the man to pick up the tab on dates, because, you know, 'that's just, like, the way it's supposed to be done'.

2)   It’s HORRIFIC that women, after the trauma of being raped, have to go through sickening abuse at the hands of the police, and of society. That the lengths to which she has to prove she isn’t lying is another, heart-breaking ordeal. That she’s treated not as a victim first, but as a suspect. It’s also horrific when a woman who hasn’t been harmed in any way realizes that this is the easiest route to ruining an innocent man’s reputation and life in one fell swoop.

3)   It’s absolutely okay for women to want to run their lives with exactly as much freedom as men. It is, indeed, our right to walk the streets late at night, to study till whatever age we want and not get married till we’re 45 or EVER, just because we feel like it. We just can’t forget that this means that we can’t not know how to change a tyre, or deal with property brokers or learn some expert-level MMA to save our own lives because, you know, that's why we have men (cue many LOLZ). 

4)   Women need to be considered on par with men at the workplace—in every way. If you worked as hard as a male colleague, it wouldn’t at all be fair that you be passed over for a promotion because the clients would “just be more comfortable with a man at the head of the (conference) table.” But this same claim in life cannot come from the kind of space where women use “period pains” when they don’t have them to get out of work because, that’s something a male boss can’t question because it makes him uncomfortable and out of line.

5)   We need to realize it’s not okay to crib about women’s rights in public forums and social media, but change sides like the flick of a switch when it comes to real life. We have to make a noise, even if its more inconvenient than ‘just letting it go’ when a passerby on the street grazing your ass with his hand, or if a man stares at your chest throughout your bus ride to work.

6)   No woman is asking for it. Ever. Period. No exceptions. If she is naked with a “Fuck Me” sign in glitter across her breasts, she is still not yours to touch. You need her permission, always, always, always. You also need HIS permission. The idea that you can stick your tongue down a man’s throat, or press your body into his, or grab his crotch do not become okay because, well, he’s a man and they never say no. They can, they do, they have every goddamn right to. It doesn’t make it any less assault because you’re a woman. It makes it worse, because people will cry when you talk about YOUR ordeal, but laugh when he brings up his.

We need to have the guts (not the balls, *she sidesteps carefully*) to know you have to earn the right to be called a feminist, because it doesn’t come in the exact size and shape you want it to. It's like a degree, an education. You don't decide you want to be a lawyer and become one by telling people you're a lawyer. It takes commitment.

It means not asking a man to give up his seat on the bus, in the section marked ‘ladies’, because even though your legs are aching like hell from running around all day, you know being a woman is not a handicap.

It means paying your way through life, in kind and in cash, because no one else is responsible for you but you yourself.

It means understanding that being a feminist is a beautiful thing but, just like life, there will be parts of it you don’t like, that don’t work in your favour. That don’t allow you free drinks or half-days at work or the luxury to feel up any man that takes your fancy.

It means realizing that you are NOT a victim—not of society or gender. Not anymore. It’s believing that your playing with a full deck—that you are not handicapped, underprivileged; that you are not the underdog. You are in the game, and you are a full, strong contender. It means taking the time, the pain and the fight to correct someone when they tell you you can’t do something. It will be the very opposite of easy—it will often be unpleasant and sometimes even take a few tries. But that daily struggle of carving a tunnel to other side with the nib of a ball-point pen, and making a dent every time you try—that is feminism.

Or atleast, you know, 'my brand' of feminism.




Thursday, 12 November 2015

The Age Of PC


I’ve always found it a dubious occupation—being an old soul in a Y2K existence (the fact I call it a ‘Y2K existence’ probably proves my point). But the one thing that truly and profoundly frightens me is the delicacy with which we need to co-exist with people in this new-age world of social tip-toeing.
I’ll explain. A friend of mine once said something that started this train of thought, and this train’s been running parallel to all my sentient activity for the last three years since he said it. A simple enough declaration—“I don’t like him (another friend in question). But I’m afraid if I don’t pretend to, people will think I’m homophobic”.

This unearthed a great, big tumble of scary realities to me. The friend in question was gay—and wildly popular with the exception of with this other friend—and it seemed to him that displaying his natural aversion to this person would make him seem like he had an issue with his being gay. It’s this kind of hazardous proposition—expressing a dislike for someone and the assumption that it’s tantamount to that one ‘glaring’ aspect of their personality—that calls for political correctness.
With the looming possibility of nasty Tweets and Re-tweets, and flagrant social-media shaming, is it possible to express any opinions without a fear of social judgment?

I started to examine this friends social resume under the magnifying glass—and I realised how faux some of his friendships seemed. Not from his side, though—he seemed to have a connect with the people I’m talking about. The people, however, seemed to gush over him just a little bit extra, love his outfits a little too much, think everything he said was just a little too golden. And it all seemed a little too much like…overcompensation.

The fact that we live in a world with so much access and liberty has tabled the idea of ‘free speech’. I mean, sure, you can freely love something that’s socially acceptable. But to not love it is to reek of intolerance—even if it actually hasn’t come into the equation at all!

Look at the two friends I was referring to—X doesn’t like Y. Y happens to be gay. But X dislikes Y regardless of him being gay. He could be straight, or hate Thai food or he could be Thor in sheep’s clothing—X still wouldn’t like Y because Y just…isn’t his sort of guy. But, in the tip-toeing terseness in which we all currently exist, to declare that X didn’t like Y would instantly be interpreted as an attack on Y’s sexuality. “Dant-dant-dant-SILENCE! No explanation NEEDED!”

This led me to wonder exactly how often we filter our opinions through the sieve of social correctness before we let the world access them. The myriad thoughts that might enter our head before we make our opinions known on any subject under the sun—If I say I like the fact that boyfriend came to the airport to pick me up, does that make me un-feminist? If I say that I thought the shoot-outs in Die Hard were cool, does that make a look like I’m a pro-violence, gun-toting fascist? If I say that I’d really like a new phone for my birthday, does that make me a vapid, hollow materialist?

Every statement, every comment is simply a plethora of naked text to be read into. There is no such thing as an ‘innocent’ remark. It is always deemed laced with meaningful nuance and socio-political undertones that speak to whether our character is ‘acceptable’ or not.  You could be branded a ‘sexist’ while trying to order Chinese food, a ‘racist’ while trying to find a bus ticket in your bag or ‘frivolous’ while watching a film with headphones on in an airplane. There is no dearth of unsavoury labels waiting to flag you as you go through the game of tag that life has recently become.

And so, in this era, I feel a certain degree of envy for obliviousness. When a man blatantly makes an ‘anti-Dalit’ or a sexist remark, I loathe him entirely for his thoughts, but envy him deeply for the freedom he gave himself to express them. I’d never have the balls to say that, I think, and then I wonder how anti-feminist it is again to associate bravery with ‘having balls’.

In an age where we so carefully and cautiously live in an effort to ‘check ourselves before we wreck ourselves’, I wonder if freedom of speech even exists—and counts–if you end up being your own Censor Board. A system clamping down on what you ought or ought not to say is simply cause for the romance of rebellion—but when it’s self-inflicted, what fight is there to fight?

I will now to proceed to leave you, and constantly second-guess putting this blog post up for all the damage it might do because hey, I made a comment about envying the self-confidence of sexists.




Monday, 14 September 2015

On Realising I’m A Bitch


The Mothership
I’ve always imagined I was the kindest person in the history of time. It has broken my figurative heart (and hurt my literal feelings) every time I’ve been casually labelled a ‘bitch’ by someone, in passing. As if it were nothing but a mere assessment of a character trait—and a terribly natural one at that.  But…I couldn’t possibly be! I’m delightful!
 I have a colleague who, very proudly, declares that she once took a quiz to find out what ‘kind of bitch’ she was. Her results said she was an Alpha Bitch, and she professed it with great fervour and satisfaction, wearing it like a badge of society’s vote of confidence. I couldn’t understand. Was being a bitch currently in style?
I’ve often been told that I must cultivate some degree of ruthlessness to succeed in this ‘cut-throat world we live in’. I’ve watched pop cultural favourites in horror where XYZ steps all over her sick grandmother to cut a business deal and/or trades his girlfriend in as a sexual favour because it means owning a hotel (Okay, perhaps this is all mostly from Gossip Girl, but I’m sure there are other, higher-brow examples out there that don’t quite come to mind as easily.)
The idea of this seems galling. It leads me back to that big, looming question that has spurned ever so many indecipherable philosophy doctrines and bad, loosely psychotherapy-premised shows—‘But what is the meaning of life?’ For me, I suppose when I shy away from unleashing the full can of worms that’d be the answer to that question, the sentiment would veer off a touch from Sartre’s ‘Hell is Other People’ and arrive at ‘Life is Other People’.
It seems simplistic, perhaps, but apt. I can’t think of a single thing about my life that cannot be measured in people.
·      The friends I have, and the company and support they provide on a monthly/weekly/daily-nightly basis.
·      The people I work with, the ability to make it through the day seamlessly and without debacle, to prove my worth as a working individual AND as a human being.
·      My family, and constantly exhibiting the fact that I love them, so they are secure in the knowledge that their daughter loves them/cares about them.
·      My boyfriend, and taking decisions every day to be a different ratio of bad girlfriend/ good girlfriend (aka myself/ attractive version of myself).
·      The miscellaneous, but important, cast and crew of my life (The cleaning lady at the gym, the old classmate I run into every time I drink at Summerhouse, the landlord) whose opinions possibly matter most because they see me from a bird’s eye-view.
I digress, but there is a modicum of method to my madness. This off-track diatribe about people being the essence of existence ties in with my theory. If people are the very core of the apple that is life, then how is being a bitch a marketable quality? It seems odd to revel in this label (something not exclusive to M’Colleague here), to treat it like it is a saleable characteristic that will ‘take us far’ in life. Take us far I’m sure it shall, but it seems a touch hollow to be a widely-feared CEO at a soul-guzzling mega-corp and not have anyone that’ll grab a drink with you on Fridays.
But this realisation, I’m afraid, is not the centrifugal force that drives this verbal onslaught. The sad realisation is that despite my accidentally-Buddhist world-view, coupled with my inherent knowledge that I am the golden-est of all hearts that ever has beat, is the fact that I am, in reality, a bitch.
I never saw it creep up on me. I went about innocently, doing my thing, assuming that since I know what a soft and gentle spirit resided in my otherwise unprepossessing frame, people would automatically know it as well. Never could I have fathomed there was truth to the statement ‘Oh, you’re such a bitch’ uttered off-handedly by a friend or compatriot. ’They’re mistaken,’ I would tell myself, claiming plausible deniability because, heck, I saw no signs of it.
Until, one day, I heard myself saying the words “well, what can you really expect of her. She can’t even spell ‘brooch’”. It hit me like a tonne of bricks in action replay—what a goddamn bitchy thing to say! It then came to me in a discomforting cascade of flashbacks—I had always said things as such and their cousins. Whether it was ripping people apart for their inadmissible grammar, or their obsession with a shallow little somethin’-somethin’ like shoes (see? There I go again), I’d always had a standard I’d expected people to meet. I just hadn’t realised quite how I was treating the people that fell short of this self-erected yardstick.
Yes, I always smile at doormen and yes, I always get up for older people on the bus—but is that enough? Have I been so caught up believing I was nice that I’d forgotten to be? I can’t help but wonder if I’d gotten it so wrong that my real self and ideal self were that far off that I wasn’t at all in touch with who I had become over time.
And if this were true, if I had been an undercover bitch for ages now, was it even possible to revert to my former state of niceness? Was there a cure for the deep-rooted snark that had infested my sterling soul? Could I successsfully shake the nasty, or…
…or should I just be taking the ‘What Kind Of Bitch Are You?’ quiz, grabbing a label and owning it?


Friday, 31 July 2015

#Hatergram


While I was pumping iron at the gym this morning (not really, I was on the treadmill, but ‘I was running on a hamster-wheel this morning’ doesn’t quite denote swag as much), a friend who's planning to go to Europe for a shoot next month, mentioned stumbling upon a woman (online, in the name of research) she knew who’d been there recently.
Hoping to find sweeping landcapes turned into cutesy Polaroid-style photographs with captions like ‘Majestic Gstaad’ and ‘Breathtaking Berlin’, she found only pictures of said globe-trotter pouting amidst various locations. While the clear labelling was indeed, handy (Me in Prague! #duckface. Me in Barcelona! #duckface) the futility of the exercise soon dawned on my friend, who realised that, to this woman, the big sell of every gorgeous European hotspot was that her pout had now been Instagrammed there.
I couldn’t help but wonder how deeply social media has affected our life goals (another friend of mine would have been likely to interject at this juncture and say #lifegoals—case in point). This woman had just traversed the borders into what was once, deliciously foreign land (and is now simply status quo for anyone whose been anywhere), and through all her experiences in Europe, hadn’t been able to spare a photograph for the place itself.
Going back to the old-school era (in my mind, tucked fondly into a happy crevice) when we took our little Nikons to Adlabs after our limited reel of 36 snaps was full up, and waited days while spools of negative turned into the contents of albums titled ‘Goa Holiday’ and ‘Nani’s Visit 1997’—I remember how, even then, when we lost a couple of soldiers to over-exposure, or having left the shutter down, we’d still have two or three pictures entirely sans people,…just to capture the space in which all those memories took place.
Having that space arrested as a whole, on it’s own piece of glossy photo-paper meant that we could insert all the memories we hadn’t finalised on film, instead of filling the frame with one specific smile, or one specific awkward group hug.
Now, however, the capacity of the average iPhone or Android phone or whatever your techno-poison of choice, is unlimited. Fill it brimful with unending bathroom selfies, and dump onto desktop when the phone sends it’s disciplinary ‘memory-full’ warning. Using a camera is a photographer’s game—whip one out in a crowded bar full of lycra-and-laced up ladies, and those click-ready smiles turned to confused ‘excuse-MEH?’ faces.
But even then, in daily flurries of picture-taking, no one really stops to photograph a space. Not on their travels, not on their everyday tos-and-fros from office-to-filler-time-entertainment to-home. People can only claim a space if they push themselves into the frame, and it’s not worth claiming if it can’t be advertised.
Enter Instagram.
I’ve already garnered a plethora of hatred for my refusal to partake of this over-indulgent fad. ‘Why aren’t you on Insta?!’ many whinge, encouraging me to join it by telling they will be able to tag me in drunken photos of myself that illustrate particularly how unattractive I am, and how incapable my face is of a proper smile (if you’re thinking of Chandler from F.R.I.E.N.D.S. that would be accurate, yes). I realise that in this day-and-age (forgive me for that awful phrase. It’s been used more times than that F.R.I.E.N.D.S reference, I know) not being on Instagram is a veritable sin. It makes me stuck in the past, detestable especially being a weed of the current crop (basically, 25 years old).

But my issue with this desultory portal is really quite simple—it takes away from experience. It changes every event, gathering, coffee break, drunken night, moribund weekend of viral fever, and 3 a.m. work session into a ‘photographable moment’. One might argue, ‘So what? It’s nice to remember the little things!’ However, I have had conversations with friends where pieces of a night together have dropped away from memory, or little experiences have been missed because they were too busy taking red-lipstick selfies with the bartender. Between the incessant phone-flashes and the inebriation of too many gin-and-tonics, they barely remember being there.
But hey, there’s a picture that proves it on Instagram.
I come across as full of loathing, too irate to move forward with the times. I’m not, not really. I’d be a hypocrite if I was, because I, too, have taken selfies with some bartenders in my time (okay, regular photographs. I can’t be sold on the selfie thing still). But this obsession to show the world you’re having a good time often precedes actually having a good time. Flipping through my best friend’s Insta account, I found happy pictures of her on nights where I know she’d been crying her face off not 20 minutes before that picture was taken. The fa├žade of a good time supercedes everything—‘If it’s not on Insta, it doesn’t count,’ says a popular meme.
I suppose that must mean I don’t count. Oh well. I’ll just have to work with anecdotes about a girl’s night in instead, and hope that people don’t ask for documentation to prove the 12 stages of relaxation I went through that evening.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

On The Frivolity Of Hashtags


I must admit, I use them ironically. I use them with such intense and mounting frequency on a Monday-to-Saturday basis that I wonder at what point my already onion-skin flimsy ‘irony’ defense will stop pulling through for me.
But, somewhere in the middle of the myriad flashing newscreens with #KashmirFloods or #NepalQuake flying about, I realised how the constant appearance of this tiny little ‘formerly known as the number sign’ sign was degrading the very crisis it so wished to draw attention to. In order to create a cult of social uprising, it had summed up the sudden upheaval of thousands of playgrounds, living rooms, bus stops and kids eating their lunches in a succinct little hashtag meant to garner heaps and heaps of…well, something.
People are banding together righteously with sanitizer-pure intentions, raising their fingers both in blame (Indian media, Nepali government, basically anyone since we can’t quite be yelling at tectonic plates in all our sanity) and in Tweets of allegiance—to help, to fix, to restore normalcy…
While Tweeters and Facebookers galore chirrup away with their #HashtagsOfHope, the sufferers continue to suffer, submerged in waist-deep water, or scrambling for any semblance of a meal because the umpteen donations of 200,000 kgs of rice and dal have been stuck at customs for an eternity. I reach a point of detachment when words begin to sprinkle across my feed in a shade I have dubbed ‘Facebook-Blue’ with spirited words of optimism that ring well-meaning, but too hollow not to take lightly.
Sometime, the ludicrousness of the whole situation strikes me when, in cases like the media filming the farmer’s suicide that happened last month, I see a post that says. “Media is sick. Can’t believe they would do this. All my support to the farmer’s family. Justice will prevail #Hanginthere.”
Normally, my personal prejudice always adds extra IQ points to anyone that chooses to speak sans text-lingo on social media, but in this case I’ll have to whittle it down to a deduction regardless. On a sick, detached level, the irony amuses me, but for the most part, this post depresses me deeply.
This hashtag fixation bothers me on the double when it’s used in times of crises, but it’s as irksome on the day-to-day as well. People are never deterred from the delicious prospect of throwing a hashtag out into the universe—anything from a personal injury to a breakfast item is subject to the hashtaggian tyranny of (as one hilarious Channel V venture dubbed us) the ‘Yo’ generation.
I yearn for the point in time where the contruction of a sentence was possible without this desire to pander to your own ego by padding it with likes. When you could say ‘It’s been a great day at the beach!” without it essentially becoming “#sun #sand #beachlove #bestholidayever #can’teverydaybelikethis #palmtree #newbikini #beachbodyready #lovinmylife”.
Perhaps my collective of friends is right. Perhaps I am an old soul, best left to stew in outrage at those ‘darned kids with smartphones and Twittery jibber jabber’, but I’d rather be outdated with a clunky Nokia and no Instagram account (gasp! Sputter! OMG!) than a 40-something who looks back at her 24-year old self and wonders what on earth she was thinking when she hashtagged the bejeezy out of every natural calamity and/or piece of office stationary.  I’d prefer to have #NoRegrets.


Monday, 20 April 2015

The Byomkesh Villainy


 For shame, for shame. I have been so involved in learning my magazine’s website, battling my inner techno-phobe demon, that my blog has gone to dust. It wasn’t much to start with, yes, but the USP was some fair regularity of irreverent poppycock (that noone read) which help me keep some mild-salsa-sauce sense of self. I haven’t had that sense of self in over two weeks (but I have been spamming the magazine website—as per my appraisal meeting requirements—with numerous articles in my best writing-rendition of my excited-radio-voice). Today, I put finger to cursor with the pretext of elaborating on a film that got my juices flowing two Wednesday nights ago  (which should’ve actually been penned down market-fresh that very Thursday morning), but that I can’t shake for the following reasons
1)   For how I LOVE Dibakar Banerjee, that man is obviously dripping gold from his ex-ad-exec brain and I am standing there lapping it up like middle-class housewife with a barren jewellery box.
2)   This antagonist. I can hand it to you in writing (hardy har) that he will stay with you.
3)   The soundtrack. That I DID manage to prattle on about on said website, guising my vested interest under the one tag I need to write anything on the webzine; “It’s trending!”
4)   Yes, it’s Guy Ritchie Holmes-ian. No, it’s not some outright copy. Yes, fine, the credits are an outright copy. No, I don’t give a shit.
5)   Did anyone even KNOW Sushant Singh Rajput before this? Clearly, I have veiled myself in ignorance due to my irrevocable pledge of devotion to His Hairiness (Sir Arjun Kapoor) (and also, yes, Hello inner Delhi Garl)
But no, I do not wish for my blow-by-blow dissection of Detective Byomkesh Bakshy to occur in this bullet-point format. I am an ardent admirer of the long, rambling, run-on style and so to it I will adhere. And I will begin and end with The Villain.
Perhaps this is a good moment to pay homage to Cinema Sins and slap on the disclaimer: Spoiler Alert! (Duh)
The Villain, is someone who is played by a man that has sprung out of obscurity in a manner quite in keeping with the stylistic preferences of the Anurag Kashyap-Dibakar Banerjee cult of directors that are more inclined to pull random, fantastic actors out of oblivion and shock us with how phenomenal they can be (well, unlike the forthcoming Bombay Velvet, which ladles popular actors Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma into our laps instead of the breed of actors we’re used to from him; read, Satyadeep Menon and Radhika Apte)
So, out of nowhere comes one Neeraj Kabi, the man who begins as a homely  caretaker, and grows into the kind of menacing druglord-gangster that’ll leave you with chills and queasy uncertainty. I loved him—the wild glint of his glasses, the mad, too-long, overbearing laughter that kept the audience in suspense for a fraction of a second longer than necessary, the unfettered unpredictability in his every movement—is he overcome with love? Homicidal? Who can tell!
I think it says enough for the careful crafting of his character—and I mean tailor-made sinister—that I plan to slice through all the uniqueness of this film right down to the bone that is Dr. Anukul Guha.
I will not talk about the cinematography (which seems to have taken a leaf out of The Dewarists in some of its close-ups—a technique that worked so much better here than it did there; though, really, this might just be bias because this one didn’t have Monica Dogra swanning around screen, driving me batty). I will no make no mention of the stunning Divya Menon as Satyawati, who brought back that earthen, raw sexuality that Lakshmi Menon used to be famous for—except swathed in basic cottons to downplay it just the right amount—for she must, of course, fit the bill of the Byomkesh’s wife-to-be). I will not talk (again) about the phenomenal soundtrack, about which those who know me know I’ve written about on my magazines portal (a small win, for me, with hopefully more to come).
No, I shan’t wax eloquent over the myriad elements that make this film a classic winner ala Dibakar Banerjee (yes, evidently I’m a fan). I want only to talk about him. I mean, look at this man.
Dr, Anukul Guha—Caretaker by day, a cup of pure evil by night
 He is such a packet of comfortable-Uncle chips—in Bengali flavour. Replete with the fibre-spilling, old shawl and little-moon glasses, you are led in the way of true detective-mystery to believe he is the mastermind right from the start, only for the film to lurch you into realising that there’s a bigger game in play that he could not possibly be a part of.  And then BOOM! What an idiot you were! It is the self-same khadi-puppet/freedom-fighting power-ranger that you had written off as too obvious!
And then, you find out why. It isn’t actually the why that gives you the chills about Anukul Guha. Or the details of how he pulled it off. It isn’t that he’s the least suspicious-looking drug overlord you’d come across and how his demon schemes are going to fuck the country over twentyfold more than you thought.
It’s that mad gleam in his eye.
The actor has caught onto something, a kind of crazy that can’t be bottled; and he’s spit it out onto the canvas of film so subtly, you can’t quite tell it’s happening. You just know that this man bothers you profoundly. You can’t bear to hear him laugh that taunting, resounding laugh any longer and yet your fearsome it’ll stop—because, god knows what will follow. You can’t handle him being on screen, because he is so cold and insane that he could do anything at all…including nothing, which will leave you just as dissatisfied. You know when he’s gone, order will be restored, and yet you love that uneasy chaos.
If you haven’t seen the film, I’m sorry for giving it away, but my description will hamper nothing in terms of your intake of this character. He cannot be sketched, only observed quietly, and fearfully, and you will hope so desperately that he dies and yet a lingering flicker of ‘but, also not’ will feed off the schaddenfreude coursing through your veins.
In the simplest of terms, and in the kind of brief story-summaries we send to our bosses:
Watch this film first and most for Dr. Anukul Guha.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Take Me To Church—A Breakdown


First off, if this video hasn’t swept YOUR screen yet, here’s a little preparatory homework.



Now that everyone reading this has watched the video (you’re welcome!) you can deduce for yourself whether it went viably viral; or in the same, undeserved manner as the ‘I Can Has Cheezburger?’ Lolcatz nuisance. My stance, however, is as solid as The Hulk’s gargantuan, green chest: I. Love. is. The song and the video. Independently and together.
And the song shook me especially when someone offhandedly compared me to the man’s lover in the song. It was a compliment I did not want—nor felt I warranted. The idea of being worshipped is almost narcotic in its intoxication… but the thought of having someone at your service is equally frightening. The lyrics, every time they’re sung at me, remind me of this essential dilemma often comes to the fore—power, and how quickly it turns to this liquid evil. Something I want on multiple levels, and yet do not wish to bear the brunt of.

(Still From The Video)
I went for this play in January called Venus In Furs, an interesting Matryoshka doll-esque concept. In this play-within-a-play setting, we saw the two leads, and the characters playing them, shifting the dominant-submissive sexual dynamic between them. I truly believed that I’d love that degree of power over someone—to have them kiss my shoes, run to me as I summoned them. But I also came to the swift and sharp realisation that I wouldn’t have the heart to put someone through that. That maybe I’m too weak for power that potent.

I'll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I'll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife

Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life
(Still From The Video)
I remember, once, watching Polanski’s Bitter Moon, a movie that (in order not to spoil it for everyone that may hopefully watch it) exhibiting in the most sensual, fluid form the deepest levels of cruelty between two people in love. The idea that love and torture were a packaged deal was something I had presumed from all the tragedy forced down my throughout via literature and the cinematic arts. But to see it inflicted so intentionally, so callously was something I wasn’t getting. If this was love, on any level, with any explanation, the world was deeper and darker than I wished to comprehend.
Opening up that thought-wound is bittersweet, one that incites both a grateful and hateful part of me every time I listen to Take Me To Church. It bothers me profoundly, but I love it.
The video is equally stirring in an altogether different fashion. It’s the most heartrending commentary on homophobia, blending seamlessly with—and detaches repeatedly from— the audio stimulus in a perfect harmony that drives home the point it’s making. 
The line She tells me "Worship in the bedroom"/The only heaven I'll be sent to/ Is when I'm alone with you syncs perfectly with the two boys kissing, cut quickly by the angry mob descending on one of the boys’ houses. The video ‘shows instead of telling,’ a trick every writer aims to learn to better their craft.
(Still From The Video)
 One of the most crushing moments is when we see the boy’s face, contorted with anguish, in the mini-screen of a handicam. The fact that someone is filming this shows just how deep the rot goes. It no longer becomes a righteous quest to ‘correct evil’—The vindicativeness tears through the seams of the (already flimsy) defence of ‘God’s Will,’ and the hypocrisy floods in.
I am well aware of how the video has resonated with everyone that may have been through/ known someone who’s been through this struggle with society. I can only hope it resonates with people that have never been brave enough to imagine it.


Monday, 16 March 2015

Cinema At the Gym-Ina! (So It Can Vaguely Rhyme)




#Funtimes #Khet #Mom # Bros4Lyf
 Still: Karan Arjun (1995)
In an attempt at being a more fulfilled human being, I have bought into the most popular stock option available to ‘young women my age’—going to the gym. This new found gym-rat avatar bodes well for me—it gives me an excuse as to why I’m tired and sleepy at 11:00 p.m. (there is no actual reason for this. Sometimes I am tired after having slept a full nine hours post doing nothing), and it’s my one reasonable claim to actually ‘taking care’ of my body—lathered by vats of cream-based desserts and unapologetically fattening meats.
So I am swathed daily in a sea of my own sweat and a thick coat of feel-good pheromones that are washed away by a hot shower as I emerge my shiniest, happiest self and begin the workday. I am inordinately proud of this un-extraordinary achievement, mostly because I am forced to battle the same terribly boring stimuli on deadbeat-repeat. These consist of
1)   A playlist that’s been looped so often it would make scratchy vinyl sounds if it were the old days.
2)   A TV with no sound that plays a Hindi news channel that unwaveringly reminds me of my lengthy stint as a schoolgirl, struggling to read words like Pratirodh and Paraadheen.
3)   Countless Health-In-Your-Face posters of unnaturally hot women like Nargis Fakhri and Lisa Haydon (who ought to be banned in general for the infinite damage she’s done to the female psyche simply by existing) on the cover of Healthy! Healthy! Healthy! Magazines with tips for a ‘Bang-able Bod’ or how to go from ‘Fat To Flat in 15 Minutes’ or whatever.
At some point that Zor-Laga-Ke Do-It-Do-It vibe started to get to me, and my inner couch potato sought counsel with my new work-out wizard self. We came to an understanding—I stay on the cross-trainer, but try to get them to change the channel from goddamn Hindi News/Sports.
And so, I used all 200 grams of charm I possess and got them to switch over to…’well anything else, really’, were my exact words. They informed me that, regardless, the soundtrack of Death By Trance needed to continue, attaching the phrase ‘gym policy’ and a fairly polite shrug of the shoulders. Ergo, I had to find something with subtitles, so I could read the TV (working out both brain and brawn, eh? Plenty smart.)
Alas, the one English language channel they possessed (AXN) had no signal. In a mild effort to help, they flipped it to Zee Cinema (my ‘I’m Truly Doing Nothing With My Life’ channel), which was playing Karan Arjun, a film whose original reel should’ve been lost at the godforsaken Mela instead of it’s duo-Khan leads.
As it happens, watching some Bolly Masala on volume zero is more educational than you’d imagine. I managed to watch a whole 45 minutes of this muted melodrama without being distracted by the dearth of sound. Turns out, watching this film without the chaos of sound effects and dialogue let me focus on about a million other aspects of the film that would never otherwise have come to the fore.
Like, how much villainous men need to move their heads in order in emphasize their points. Or how their echoing laughter while they mess around with an aging Rakhi conveys how truly evil they are, because, you know, Laughter + Someone’s Else’s Tears + Old Person Angle = Full-Time Bastard.
I loved how dream sequences had a healthy mix of Shah Rukh tossing and turning, his lower jaw glazed with sweat, on his charpai interspersed with NFAI archived footage of what looked like Jalianwala Bagh (but I’m guessing was the Kumbh Ka Mela judging by a stray Ferris wheel I saw in one half-shot). The footage, treated with the gloomiest black and white and stilted screen movement, was reminiscent of the Civil War documentaries Discovery used to make way back when (and could easily be mistaken for it without the dramatic soundtrack).
All You're Going To Do Is Talk? Excellent! Still: Before Sunset (2004)
So, to keep from making this a film studies dissection of various frames, I’ll stick to the basic fact I took away from this experience—we care too much about what’s going to happen. It breaks my heart when somebody says “I don’t care if it’s well written—as long it’s got a good plot”. Because, my god, I’m so far gone the opposite, I’m no longer relatable. I’ll watch the swill of the plot world—just because it’s written brilliantly. I don’t care if a movie doesn’t leave a room—in case you’re wondering, yes, I loved the Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight films—so long as the conversation is amazing. I don’t mind if a character doesn’t grow, doesn’t learn… just that he wastes away beautifully.
And I realised, with film, you’d think the dialogue was the way it was written. But really, it seems only the vehicle to carry forward a melodious cacophony of sounds, visuals, expressions, body-movements... The dialogue has us so hooked on what’s next we forget to focus on what’s right now. And watching Karan Arjun on mute amidst the perspiring walls of the office gym taught me what six months of a film class could not.
If it helps, Anuradha ma’am, if you’re out there. I finally think that Cinema as a Language makes sense—and isn’t eye-rollingly pretentious.
…Well, maybe the pretentious part is still true.




Monday, 9 March 2015

The Singles Club


 Also known as The Illusion of the Duo-Toned Lawn (and Why the Grass is Always Greener)

Sadly, this blog has come to a point where I can’t shy away from exploring the most-flipped-to section of my magazine—relationships. Today, I have no 101 tips to Blow (his mind), nor 80 positions That’ll Kill Your Back (But Will Keep Your Passion Alive). No, I have nothing useful—I have but myriad ramblings, packaged pretty in large words (and some small, but super-intelligent words like frisson) for some kind soul’s reading pleasure (or to be a page to skim while a YouTube video buffers). I have nothing to give except shady vibes and scrambled thoughts, attempting to sort through the age-old myth—that a relationship is the ultimate goal of a love life.

This might seem a natural assumption—do we not all want our cartoon cat to snuggle with, marathon hilarious sitcoms with, crunch on chips and popcorn with? Yes, our ideal is the man/woman who will not scamper off in frighten at our bleached faces or hole-in-the-bottom boxers, and will love us through every coughing fit, crusty nose and bout of emotional hara-kiri. We figure, we find ‘em, and we can officially start getting fat and letting our moustaches grow. 
It’s easy to coast toward this goal, to believe that this quintessential paragon of relationship joy will swoop in announced, and that it will be a happy change because, heck! What is the life we’ve worked for thus far but a way to pass time till perfection takes over. 
No, this is not a discourse on the aftermath of finding that relationship. I will not tut-tut about disillusionment, about the lovable little oddities turning irksome, of the sheen of passion fading to unveil time-worn machinery that can’t function without a hint of a scraping noise. This little rant is less poignant, far less relatable and far more self-indulgent.
It’s essentially just Single Girl Nostalgia.
A quick word in my own, pre-emptive defence—I wouldn’t trade my happy relationship for the world. I love it. I love fall asleep to the rhythm of someone’s breath, coming home to have someone wrap me up in their arms, subjecting someone to my Suits reruns. I love every part of it. If my boyfriend is reading this, I love you. 
And NOW that I’ve stuck that blinking disclaimer at the top, I’d like to say that being single is terribly underrated. It’s got this Cathy comic bad reputation of high candy intake and sorrow and drunken sex and it’s so unfair because it’s much more than that. The wide-held belief is that people that yearn for singlehood are people that are unhappy in their relationships; but my theory is somewhat atypical.
Ah, To Be Young and Trashy Again. (Circa 2014)
It’s sort of like choosing an ice-cream flavour. You try a bunch before you settle with one (unlike back in the day, where taster spoons for a few sneak-peak molecules weren’t handed out willy-nilly) and no matter how good that Peanut Butter Brinkle is, you miss that you’re not having chocolate. You don’t exactly want to switch your scoop in, but still, you can’t help but miss it.
 Sadly, singlehood/relationships don’t have a double-decker option (a sexual double-decker…not as appealing somehow).
I miss the boredom of coming home with nothing to do. I miss that sting of desperate hope that an attractive man might catch my layered eyes (new phraseology for glasses).  I miss going out with girlfriends and going home together, falling into one of our beds together instead of our own beds, without each other. I miss cooking for one, unashamed that my dinner will be bourbon biscuits and cheese. I miss having someone pop round in the a.m. and decide they want to use my bathroom, have a drink and leave. I miss being able to change my mind and head out after just stepping foot in the house, just because I’m not yet done with the gorgeous weather. 
I miss that. But not as much as I’d miss my cartoon cat.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Why Girls is breaking my heart (Spoiler Alert!)



Girls was always this show that sounded shallow and chock-full of lipsticks and love affairs—a vicinity I avoid like the plague unless it comes in the cinephile approved wrapping of Truffaut film. But, on closer inspection (i.e. religious fandom), over the last three years, the HBO original has bust that myth wide open. The show is gloriously white, over-analytical and over-privileged, not letting its narcissism be bogged down by ‘deeper’ concerns (like racism, sexism, et. al) to which we often find a token throwback on many shows of today.
And so, the show became something utterly flabbergasting and fresh in its strange, convoluted characters, its incredibly unappealing (but so real) sex scenes, and it’s first world problems. It received critical acclaim for numerous reasons; teetering at the top of that list: Lena Dunham’s unabashed flashing of all her parts at the ready. I became an ardent aficionado, following the show and tapping my feet in Hannah Horvath-esque impatience for the 4th season to come out.
I was waiting to see what was next for the muddled Hannah-Adam equation, what with her going off to Iowa and all (a decision I wasn’t fully comfortable with never actually having been exposed to Hannah’s writing, just being repeatedly programmed to think it was ‘really good’—much like Hank Moody of Californication) I wanted to know how much more fucked up Jessa could really get, what Shoshanna shenanigans were on the rise, whether Marnie was about to make an idiot of herself for yet another douchey-artistic type, etc etc. I also wanted to know to know if the beginnings of the rot I noticed in Season Three Episode 10 (Role Play) would spoil the fourth season bunch.
Ah, So Si Triste.
French for ‘It’s So Sad’. At least, that’s what Google Translate tells me. I thought a foreign language would make for dramatic impact, but I have come off being pretentious and pointless.
Much Like Season Four.
I have to make the same disclaimer I did for Sex and The City: I adore this show. I have marathoned episodes with my best friends to the point that we mouth the dialogue whilst exchanging wry giggles. I feel it’s only fair to comment at length on things I know, and know well. For instance, you’ll never catch me on a heated diatribe about 2 Broke Girls, because, really, who cares? I have felt the blood pulsing beneath the skin of this show, and since I know what it can be, I realise when it’s trying too hard to be.
Perhaps it is because the show has squeezed the life-affirming juices from its zany character circle. Perhaps its because it became noted the (English-speaking) world over that it was doing something honest and bizarre—so much so that it fell over the edge and lost the plot. Perhaps it’s because Lena Dunham was so busy writing her brilliant auto-biopsy that she forgot to write the show. 
Back when the show was hot like sauce
 Maybe it’s all the ‘perhaps’ piled up, but the show has lost…something. A certain element has evaporated with its success, and the honesty that came to it naturally is now wrung out via shock value. The characters have gone from odd-but-believable to caricatures of themselves. The cardinal traits of Hannah and her Holy Trinity have been exaggerated to the point where there is little to them beyond that (with the mild exception of Marnie).
Coming from a college that truly put the ‘liberal’ in liberal arts, over-exploration of every emotion, and the passing off every half-ditch attempt at creativity as ‘art’, doesn’t faze me. I have seen a garbage bag hung on a tree and called an ‘installation about poverty and injustice’ and I have let that go. But, man. Really? I shouldn’t have to deal with that kind of douchery in the arms of my beloved primetime drama?
Like Jessa, whose hint of wild-child has gone off the charts into size-16 infant (the pissing on the street incident? What an unhappy chapter in her otherwise alt-rockstar life!). Or Shoshanna, whose speed-typist way of talking now doesn’t amuse quite as much when slowed down to a human pace. Marnie seems to be growing in some miniature way, but enter Love Interest Desi and the fondness dims significantly.
Like Hannah’s writing workshop at Iowa—on the some level, J’Adore! (More French. More Fancy.) It mocked the over-indulgent nonsense I was constantly slapped with by the faceless ‘artists’ that frequented the halls of my university. So much ‘process’, so much ‘struggle’, so LITTLE productivity!! Could someone please write something, was the thought that came to the fore often as I watched the creative-energy circle cluster and talk their writer-ly emotions out to death.
But Hannah was ONE of them! Spewing one self-indulgent sentence after another! Writing sardonic apology notes, closeted-ly snarky and rife with how the ‘negative energy’ was blocking her ‘creative energy’! She had become that which she had loathed, and it wasn’t even a character turn! It was just a natural extension of her ingrown narcissism, bursting forth full-blast after festering for years. This was Hannah—we’d just never realised! She had become so self-obsessed, so pretentious, so unproductive that she was no longer even vaguely sympathetic. She was a screen annoyance, and you were sort of sadistically happy when Adam found someone else. Because he, apart from Ray, is the only person on the show worth caring about anymore. Still real, still trying. Still odd, but feasible. Still several notches above our protagonists, because at least they have some redeeming qualities.
Sigh. Even as the most feminist person I know how to be (I don’t want to castrate anyone, but I have no intention of having my dinner paid for)—I think this show ought to be repurposed into a saga of Ray getting in touch with his inner old man, as Adam finds a place to plant his love stick.
I’m thinking Boys. Anyone?