Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Two Sentiments

There is a certain optimism amongst average Sri Lankans about the current Government’s success in completely suppressing the LTTE insurgency. The tough stance taken by the President and the promise to solve the issue within a window of 3 months time is being appreciated by them. And a division of their country is absolutely unacceptable to them.

This was my take-out from a few conversations with people like Sunil, who runs a small resort on Mirissa; Reshad , a Tuk Tuk driver and Ajit, a DVD shop-owner. They all shared the above sentiment.

This is completely in contrast with the views of the Pub-going, English speaking, Corporate kinds of Colombo. They are critical and cynical about the Government’s stance and they are alright with LTTE being given a chance to run the North and East areas of the island for a time period.

I shall wait and keenly watch the way the situation goes. The island and its people are too good be continuously under the dark cloud of troubled times and for so long. Its highly unfortunate!

PS: That's Colombo City in the early morning hours.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

When I'm 64

The green water of the Indian Ocean looks musical from the wooden balcony of this resort.

Young Reshad appeared at 10:30 with his grey BMW and a blank CD. The idea was to write some good music from my collection, so that we can play the ‘right kind of stuff’ in the car during the 3 hours drive. We were off to Mirissa, a little known beach in south and my new friend, Reshad was the guide.

There were a few jobs to be done. First things first, I got the music happening on the excellent sound system of the car. Then we stopped at a local Cargill to pick up a few essentials like half a pack of Lion pints, the local beer; toothpaste and toothbrush and some bottles of water. We were set.

Galle Road, which was taking us to the destination, is laced with the sea throughout, and its water keeps changing its colour as you go down south. The transition is from Blue to Blue-Green to finally Green.

At one of the many beaches that we kept hitting on our right hand side, we saw fishermen pulling the rope which brings the afternoon catch. We stopped over to watch. Lion gave me company. Young Reshad was happy with water. The colour was Blue-Green.

A quick lunch of very spicy Prawns at Hikkaduwa, a popular beach got our stomachs right. Lion was still giving me company. Another half an hour drive and we reached Mirissa Beach, our destination. The water had turned Green.

There are two interesting aspects about this shell-less beach. The sweet aspect is that it’s largely frequented by the geriatrics from all over the world...old men, women, couples are the sorts you will say your ‘Hellos’ to, while walking on the wet sand.

Then, there is this ‘adventure’ aspect...the water here is popular with the surfers! So, if you see young people on the beach, you can guess confidently that they are surfers.

A splash in the green water, a solitary walk along the coastline, making use of the camera, finishing off the J&B, conversing with Reshad about his life, climbing up a nearby mountain-island in the wee hours of the morning, continuously listening to Rhiannon, Sara, Gypsy & As Long as you Follow, giving yoga tips to back-ache troubled Reshad, and now, writing this post were a part of my stay at this resort.

The drive back was largely uneventful, except a very spicy Sri Lankan lunch and Reshad getting caught for over-speeding and then bribing his way to Colombo in his big vehicle.

ps: Thats what I meant by the description, 'GREEN' water...or, is it BLUE-GREEN...or, is it simply BLUE?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

My colorful beach bag

As always, a lot has been happening ever since I’ve landed here in the Isle. I’ve been trying to explore certain professional challenges and seeking the usual personal pleasure and will be documenting it all, shortly. About Laphroig and Sweet Caroline, about Sea Spray and a fortress of an office, about a fishing town at the break of dawn and Sage Merlyn...all of it will be appearing here in good time. For now, I’m off to a beach resort located in the south of the island with a bottle of J&B, and Steinbeck tucked in my colourful beach bag.

About my friends here...well, they are the same sweet self. It was delightful meeting them again. Chaga has already given me some good coffee beans which I shall be sipping on when I’m back to India.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Magic Movie Moments

The unfortunate situation in Kenya continues unabated. Every morning I watch it from the screen of my TV and get disturbed. 600 people have died so far and another 250,000 rendered homeless. Being a romantic, I keep hoping that conditions will improve with proper mediation and talks between Kibaki and Odinga.

Closer home, the situation has once again become troubled in my favourite Island country. The ceasefire has been called off, officially and the terrorist attacks by the LTTE have increased in a big manner. Once again, it leaves me very disturbed. A country which is so beautiful, with its people, geography and culture is amidst a constant threat. I will be in Colombo for 10 days starting this Sunday and will try to fill you in with the sentiments.

Another neighbouring nation continues to be in its state of chaos. Let’s see what the so called democratic elections will bring to Pakistan.

On the aesthetic note, I’ve been keeping myself busy with a list of movies. Movies from past and present, from this part of the world and other parts of the world, on big screen and small screen. Movies which made me appreciate, criticize, love and live through their various moments. So, here is a documentation of such magic moments of loving, living, appreciation and goosebumps.
  • The dance sequence at the restaurant between Franz, Odile and Arthur (Bande Apart , Godard, 1954)
  • Alexander getting caned by his step-father while Fanny watches quietly...too afraid to express any emotion ( Fanny & Alexander, Bergman, 1982)
  • Hitler’s angry outburst at his aides while his hands tremor behind his back and while Berlin burns (The Downfall, Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2004)
  • Wiesler ‘s faint smile while listening to ‘The Sonata for a Good Man’ (Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
  • Sanjouro’s cynical and ‘afraid of nothing’ look, always...( In both Sanjuro and Yojimbo , Kurosawa, 1963)
  • Gondo’s change of stance when he hears that it’s his driver’s son who has been kidnapped and not his son (High and Low, Kurosawa, 1964)
  • Avijit displaying his genius eye for colors and pictures (Born into Brothels, Zana Briski / Rauf Kauffman, 2004)
  • Ego going back to his childhood after eating the Ratatouille made by Remy and then writing an honest review (Ratatouille, Brad Bird/Jan Pinkava, 2007)
  • Prewitt and Warden having a drunken conversation late in the night, sitting in the middle of the road (From Here to Eternity, Fred Zinnemann, 1953)
  • The various skirmishes between The Great Danton and The Professor (The Prestige, Chritopher Nolan, 2006)

These moments are from the cinema of the other world. Coming up next is the list from our world. Have a good weekend!

The picture above is the cover design of a great book on movies which I am a proud owner of...thanks to good ol' friend, whom I haven't met in a long long time.

ps: They are celebrating my birthday today, exactly the way it happened last year. To know more about what happened last year and today, read here.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

You talkin' to me?

Travis Bickle is one of the most important characters from modern cinema. He represents the alienated urban angst (of course, in a very inflated manner) which a modern city life brings with it.

‘You talkin’ to me?’ remains one of the most famous movie lines ever. In fact, after seeing De Niro (playing Travis) practising the legendary line in front of the mirror, I went up to my mirror to do the same, sans the pistol and the contraption on my body. Later, I started dropping in that line in every interaction with my friends. It was the coolest line ever written. I was at an impressionable age. But, 30 years on, it remains one of the coolest line. Certain magazine rates it amongst Top 10 movie lines ever.

The creators of this movie history were Paul Schrader, the writer; Martin Scorsese, the director and Robert DeNiro, the great actor along with many others. They named it Taxi Driver and it was released in 1976, the year when my mother would’ve started driving me in a perambulator. I was born in the same year.

Apart from uttering these cool self-indulgent lines, Travis, a cabbie in New York maintains a Diary in which he documents his life and street life of NYC. He doesn’t like what he sees and feels and puts it across in frustrated words and apart from many other excellent aspects, this remains the best part of the movie, for me. Actually, his anger sums up the purpose of the movie and also explains the minor mental instability of the character. Paul Schrader has done wonders with the screenplay. An excerpt from Travis’s Diary:

"Thank God for the rain...which has helped wash away the garbage and trash off the sidewalks. I'm working long hours now: in the afternoon too : sometimes : in the morning. Six days a week, sometimes seven days a week. It's a long hustle, but it keeps me real busy. I can take in a week, sometimes more when I do if off the meter.

All the animals come out at night.Whores, skunks, pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies. Sick, venal. Someday a real rain will come and wash this scum off the streets. I go all over. I take people to the Bronx, Brooklyn, to Harlem. I don't care. Don't make no difference to me."

Or , this:

"Twelve hours of work, and I still can't sleep. Damn! The days go on and on. They don't end. All my life needed was a sense of someplace to go. I don't believe that one should devote his life to morbid self-attention. I believe that someone should become a person like other people."

For the full screenplay, you can go over here.

Why am I writing on Taxi Driver is because the other day, a friend sent me a link to another movie. It’s a German porn flick trying to pass as an educational material or the other way around. I really don’t know as I haven’t seen it. It’s called Karlekens Sprak and it figures in Bickle's life.

So, Travis likes this girl called Betsy (played by Cybill Shepherd) and wants to take her to a movie and she agrees. So he takes her to this porno and she gets disgusted within 15 minutes to leave the theater and him. Travis is genuinely unable to understand her. The sequence is quiet funny and goes on another step to establish the mental set-up of the character. Apart from the gore and morbidity which it is famous for, the flick has some funny moments too.

Thanks for the link, Atish!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Paperback Revolution

While the year began on a very shameful note here in Mumbai, there in Kochi, Pune, Patna and other unreported places, I began it by reading a little story on the history of ‘Penguin Books’ and ‘paperbacks’. It’s charming, concerns books and deserves to be narrated here.

Penguin Books has this series called Pocket Penguins, 70 and on a recent visit to Landmark, the gigantic bookstore in a mega-gigantic mall, I picked up some good ones from the series. Scott Fitzgerald, Nabokov, Woolf, Steinbeck and Hunter Thompson. Wanting to read, the beautiful story called ‘The Breakfast’ by Steinbeck, I opened up the book to find this story on the first page.

In 1935 if you wanted to read a good book, you needed either a lot of money or a library card. Cheap paperbacks were available, but their poor production generally mirrored the quality between the covers. One weekend that year, Allen Lane, Managing Director of The Bodley Head, having spent the weekend visiting Agatha Christie, found himself on a platform at Exeter station trying to find something to read for his journey back to London. He was appalled by the quality of the material he had to choose from. Everything that Allen Lane achieved from that day until his death in 1970 was based on a passionate belief in the existence of ‘a vast reading public for intelligent books at a low price’.

The result of his momentous vision was the birth not only of Penguin, but of the ‘paperback revolution’. Quality writing became available for the price of a packet of cigarettes, literature became a mass medium for the first time, a nation of book borrowers became a nation of book-buyers – and the very concept of book publishing was changed forever. Those founding principles – of quality and value, with an overarching belief in the fundamental importance of reading – have guided everything the company has done since 1935. Sir Allen Lane’s pioneering spirit is still very much alive at Penguin in 2005. Here’s to the next 70 years!

As is evident from this tale, the great publishing house came out with this series to commemorate 70 years of publication, in 2005. The first 20 books published by Penguin included titles like ‘A Farewell to Arms’ by Hemingway and ‘The Informer’ by Liam O’Flaherty.

Thank you Mr. Lane!