Image Credits: BQFF Twitter page

BQFF Diaries, Day One – 9/3/18

As always, the darkness in the auditorium at Max Mueller was inviting, not too cold; and my first glimpse of whatever was on screen was the bluish glow from the white mattresses on the floor, and the various bodies sprawled on it.

When one is in the auditorium for the first hour of BQFF, one is a body – in that, you are conscious – the mattresses take about an hour to make you feel at home so you won’t put your feet in people’s faces, you won’t even put it back, out of respect for the body behind you, you worry that your feet smell, that you are taking too much space, but within an hour – the bodies become shapes and you become a shape too. Slowly, you begin picking on the cracks of your heels, the corns on your toes, your hands go back, your body feels lighter and then you are slouching too.

The people seated demurely on chairs behind you are very much there but you only acknowledge them when you exit.

I spent the first five minutes adjusting bum, and a few minutes after that – looking for familiar shapes. Found a couple but one can never be too sure so I stayed put and didn’t grope them like I usually do (with consent, of course)

IMG_20180310_175425

The first film I watched was the Bengali & English – Aabar Jadi Ichchha Karo (If You Dare Desire) by Debalina. Two women who go by many names – Swapna & Sucheta; Aparna & Kajali; Moyna & Bandana leave home to be with each other. In Kolkata, they find family after family but not the space they need to simply be left alone with each other. Even so, they puncture the city with charming moments. Standing under a tree on a rainy Kolkata day – they both hold each other even as another woman offers them her umbrella.

A still from the film.png

They get in. A herd of goats pass by and they both move back quietly, shivering. They seem more afraid of the umbrella woman than of the goats. Here they hold each other warmly, their arms entwined. This is a moment I teach myself to look for in all of the following films. Focus on hands, faces, chins, and stolen smiles.

Sounds – Kolkata rain, crickets, and early morning birds.

***

Ektara Collective’s Turup (Checkmate) was the highlight. It reinstated a long-standing belief I’ve had. That only old women can pull off the best dialogues in films. The star of the film is the 60 something Monika Mausi who works as a maid in a family that I feel like I know very well. Husband – booming industrialist who gives money to right-wing mofos. Wife has quit her career in journalism because husband wants baby.

She asks Monika one day – Tumhari shaadi nahi hui na? (You didn’t get married no?)

Monika snaps – Shaadi nahi hui nahi. Maine Shaadi nahi kiya (It’s not that I didn’t get married. I did not marry)

Monika   Image Credits: Scroll
                                                  Monika                                     Image Credits: Scroll

Monika is actually a cat who can’t stand cats. She lives alone, walks alone, reads, plays chess, tears down Hindutva cow posters, and drinks chai standing up – thinking, planning, and living. A fab moment was watching her play chess in one scene. A cat walks by and Monika brushes it away, like a cat would, nonchalantly.

Journalist wife asks her one day – Don’t you ever get lonely?

Yes. But it comes and goes.

Don’t you want to have a family of your own?

Why? We can choose our families no? That’s also possible.

The audience sighed, clapped, cheered, hooted, and whistled. Two tear drops came for me.

Sounds – A Koel cooing gently every time Journalist wife sits in her bedroom, wondering what she’s doing with her life.

Gaysi
Image Credits: Gaysi

***

Malila: The Farewell Flower (Thailand, Thai, Anucha Boonyawatana)

I learn that doing what one loves to do is the surest way of happiness – alone, with little joy, in sickness and in health.

Pich makes Baisri (an ornamental decoration made with leaves and flower petals) and this helps him survive cancer. He loves making them even if they wither and die soon. The most difficult thing about making this, he says, is that you must hold the leaves gently but fold them tightly.

Image Credits: Kino pavasaris
Image Credits: Kino pavasaris

Once he’s done, he lets it float away in the river and feels complete only after he lets go. Too many truths, too many moments. Many sighs. I liked watching him alone doing his Baisris than with his lover, Shane – who I wanted to kill. Pich died doing what he loved. In one scene, he tells Shane that he believes he gets better and his cancer goes away when he makes a Bai Sri. ‘It’s all in your head’, Shane tells him. Shane is just a husband through the whole film. Dabba fellow.

Sounds – Rain, forests, crickets, frogs, hills.

***

Snapshot (USA, English, Shine Houston)

Obnoxiously loud North Indian women howl and scream and laugh when a woman on screen is having orgasms for the first time in her life. Sounds of orgasms are far more desirable than the loud, raspy, insect laugh of people in gangs. Wankers.

Sounds – The camera’s kachaks, clothes ruffling, and women moaning. Off Screen sounds – disgust.

Image Credits: Twitter
Image Credits: Twitter

In Arts & Culture Class One Saturday Morning

In Arts & Culture last Saturday, I tried something I haven’t had the courage to try as a teacher all these years. I let students run the class.

We had just finished watching Zizek’s The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. While some of them were taken by surprise, some others were purely disgusted by him. One found his accent revolting, another found his energy irritating. What made the discussion livelier was that people were willing to admit these things and just as willing to listen to me when I admitted to liking the man. There was conversation after that about real and unreal in the world of cinema. We decided to take home our conversation and ponder over it.

In class the next day, D who was made to talk about his interest in films, set a mad story-telling vibe which later, the rest of the class followed. His stories were crazy. I would’ve never guessed how much of a fillum-crazy streak the boy had. From watching films in secret, to egging on friends to bunk class and go with him to watch movies and then getting caught – he’s done it all. We were thrilled to hear him narrate his escapades into the normal world – one we all thought was forbidden to him.

L told us that her destiny was to be a nun apparently. She was sent for training but she kept stuffing her face with food and this made her very unpopular with all the other nuns. When she went home for vacation, she decided never to go back because she liked to eat more than she wanted to become a nun.

Sometimes, I wasn’t able to decide who was more crazy – they or their families.

Like V for instance, whose dad took her to watch The Lion King when she was 4. He waited for the scene where Mufasa picks up Simba in his arms and shows him to the world. And then when the scene came, he took her in his arms and showed her around to all the people in the theatre.

A confessed deep and pure love for Dhanush because he looks just like her boyfriend. L went a step ahead and declared that Dhanush is the realest man because in her life so far, she has never met anybody who looks like Hrithik Roshan or Surya or Vijay but she has seen many a Dhanush. If it weren’t for the fact that I was holding my stomach and howling with laughter, I would’ve hugged her at this point.

S.M, who looked like I’d asked her to give me her kidney when I told her to take off her bag, said that she believes that the Bermuda triangle is a getaway to other worlds and we all agreed. She is also very attached to her bag. Maybe she sleeps with that thing around her neck.

K confessed to crying twice in his life. Once when his school made them all watch Taare Zameen Par and all the boys sniffed through the second-half of the movie and refused to show each other that they were crying. Another time was when the Late Paul Walker was paid tribute to in that recent Fast and Furious movie. L cracked up at this. She burst out laughing, her face turning shades of red, eyes all watery, saying over and over again, ‘you cried for fast and furious’

A.N said that S.S has ruined movies for her because he’s so much into film making, he’s always telling her to pay attention to the camera angle and such. S.S said he hates it when people aren’t paying attention to the movie and keep shifting around or checking their phones. Like me, even S.S believed for a long time that the hero and the heroine of any movie are married to each other and it freaked him out when he saw the same hero romance other heroines in other films.

They all told us something that none of us knew about them. From stories that surprised us to stories that made us see them differently to stories that had us giggling and howling. Enjoying films appeared to be the common most thing in all our lives. I’m beginning to think that we aren’t all that different from each other. And I am taking an odd comfort in knowing this. I’m happy 🙂

A Room of her own

In The Ugly Truth, Abby hides in a closet because Mike is stealing her show and being a sexist asspan. But she has to be ok with it — her show is getting massive TRP’s and as producer of the show, she has to swallow her pride and allow the patronizing man colleague to run it.

gs_the_ugly_truth_090727_m
Picture courtesy aceshowbiz.com

In No Reservations, Kate goes to the cold storage room every time Nick is threatening to take over her job. Suddenly Nick is everywhere. He is telling her how great she is at her work, he is irritatingly charming in a way that we are told we will learn to love, just give it time, and he is even a better mother to Zoey. Kate’s daily ritual of returning home to find it quiet and empty is ruined one evening when she realises that she hasn’t picked up Zoey from school.

You have seen her in the cold storage room before. She goes there when her sister dies, and when she feels like her life is being taken over by other people – sometimes by Zoey, and often by Nick.

‘This place is my life’, she says.

‘No, it’s not. It’s a part of your life, Kate. This isn’t who you are’

After teaching her who she is, Nick quits his job as Sous-chef and walks out– but not before telling her that he was offered her job. Later that night when she returns home, he has left her a message.

‘And btw—I turned down the offer’

flicks_review4-1online_12
Picture courtesy aceshowbiz.com

In Wake up Sid, Aisha has nowhere to hide when her boss tells her to make coffee again. Her face falls as she quietly withdraws the hand that held the first draft of her story. Her home is hijacked by Sid whose things are all over the place. So where does she go when she needs a break from her own house? The bathroom.

When she decorates her house, Aisha paints the wall a nice, mustard yellow; her bedspread faces the big window with white curtains.

296508b83957ca3994d89a0b1cf0d737
Pic courtesy pinterest.com
ti_725_1409999465540ae26938f20
Pic courtesy polkacafe.com

In Alai Payuthey, we are shown what Shakthi’s home is like at 8:00 in the morning. Sitting at the dining table, wearing a yellow chudidar and studying for a medical exam, Shakthi is fighting because her mother has made upma again. Her mother is irritated because Shakthi’s hair is dishevelled and not neat, like her sister’s. Late in the night, in their room, Shakthi and her sister talk about the boy who has been stalking Shakthi. Shakthi is not thrilled and shushes at her sister to sleep.

12107429_163960680618677_1717220071_n
Pic courtesy setbyus.com

hi3450a4

After the boy and Shakthi are married, they live in a house that is still under construction and make it nice and cosy. A yellow bed sheet is thrown on a tiny bed; brown jute curtains are drawn, a gas stove sits in the kitchen. Days pass by and their clothes are strewn about, Shakthi’s used bindis dot the only mirror they own, a basketball sits on the floor, and they have their own worktables.

When she is late one day, he doesn’t have the keys to get in so he sits outside, waiting for her, sulking. When she comes, they fight. Their home has never looked so intimate. Shakthi circles a day off on a calendar that is hanging on a brick wall.

‘One for every day that we fight. Proof to show how difficult running a marriage is.’

In Bommarillu, Hasini takes Siddu out for coffee to a shop called Minerva. When he asks her where Minerva is, she says Secunderabad. Siddu is partly afraid, partly in awe but he agrees to go anyway because he isn’t used to taking a bus to another city to have coffee. As it turns out, Minerva is a dingy old shop run by a Muslim man named Sultan Bhai.

FullSizeRender_2
Pic courtesy booksmoviesandbeyond.blogspot.co

In Minerva, Sultan Bhai and Hasini beti chit chat about cricket. She almost forgets to introduce Sultan Bhai to her ‘guest.’ Siddu looks at all of this wide-mouthed and maybe a little disgusted as Hasini proceeds to tell Sultan Bhai to give them two coffees. Special, she says and Sultan Bhai orders the boys to clean the cups.

Later in the movie, when they know they are falling in love with each other, Siddu tells her not to go out late in the night to eat ice cream anymore.

In The Holiday, Iris returns to an empty home every night and when she leaves her city to find herself, she finds a man. When Amanda escapes to get over her break-up, she finds love again in the same home that Iris left – a man to complete a home, a man to complete themselves.

Iris cries. Amanda doesn’t.

Iris’s home is small. It’s called Rosehill Cottage. She sits at her table one night and cries her lungs out. The man she loves is getting engaged. Her dog looks sympathetic and bored. She makes tea. On the table is a Sony laptop, a packet of tissues and a mug.

All these spaces, all these women who make these spaces their own and then when they are taken away, they hide or escape to closets and bathrooms and make rooms of their own.

Vicky Christina Barcelona

This is the first Saturday night I am spending with Bubbly and Mintu. I was in the department today reading Sound & The Fury for a little while before I realised I was alone. Mintu texted a little after I had become bored and abandoned my book. She said to bring wine, and that she wanted to watch Vicky Christina Barcelona. At first, I protested. I had watched it only last week, in a moment of mad inspiration. I told her we could watch horror. She refused. My throat felt dry and so I cancelled my writing group plan and headed home.

I picked up a bottle of Sula and rode. At 9:00, I had a long family dinner and marriage wasn’t mentioned. So I joked around, speaking urdu for sometime and then sent signs to Mintu and Bubbly to follow me upstairs.

We debated for a little while and then eventually I agreed to watch VCB. Very rarely am I able to watch a movie again after having watched it very recently. VCB, Band Baaja Baarat, DDLJ, The Holiday, Aadukalam, Monsoon Wedding, Amelie are some movies I can watch over and over again.

While it’s true that I notice something I have never noticed before when I watch a movie again, it is also true that there’s a mad, raging connection between women when they are drunk, and watching a Woody Allen movie together.

Tonight, for instance, I discovered that Mintu is perhaps the only human being who smirks at the same scenes that I do.  She smirked when Doug climbed up the escalator to meet Vicky after she had slept with Juan Antonio. She said that she loved the movie when Christina went to Juan Antonio’s home and better still, moved in with him. She hit the space bar at the exact same moments that I had — when Vicky refused to join Juan Antonio on his little trip to Oviedo and Christina considered it. At this point, Mintu asked us if we would ever do what Christina did. I said yes and Bubbly said no.

I knew they would both love Marie Elena. Especially that one scene where she poses for Christina, holding that cigarette like she’s holding, well, a cigarette. Mintu smirked when Marie Elena, speaking of Juan Antonio said ‘Our love will always be romantic because it is unfulfilled’

I have also learnt that women in love have a better sense of what’s about to happen in a movie, than women who aren’t in love. That’s because they think they have more to lose, and therefore are at risk all the time. Bubbly had a crazy sense of predicting when Marie Elena would lose it, and when she was just about to do something crazy. All of Mintu’s predictions were wrong. And as far as I can remember, so were mine.

Both my sisters however, cheered when Marie Elena and Christina kissed; and shrugged gruffly when Juan Antonio joined. Thankfully, Mintu giggled when Doug was turned on when Christina narrated her passionate scene with Marie Elena. ‘How typical!’ is what she didn’t say but knew,that she wanted to say.

I don’t even remember the wine anymore. It has been a good Saturday.

Rudhramadevi

cine_gallery_41442299526I like the end -semester time when nothing happens as planned. Last semester was the coolest. I spent three days of my pre-invigilation week sitting at my desk and reading. Sadly, this has left me with an odd sense of competition with myself. Every time the end-semester time is around the corner, I roll up my sleeves in anticipation of what I’m about to do next. Which these days, is to wave at the passing time from a distance and complain about not having any free time. In compensation for this, my bruised ego mooed twice when I decided to go watch Rudhramadevi at Vision yesterday.

So when I stood in the queue to collect my 3D glasses, a fight broke out between two men who were standing in front of me. One refused to pay ten bucks for the glasses so the other man told him to go rip his own pubic hair off. The man who refused to pay was being dragged into the theatre by his friends but he sprinted back and asked him if he really should rip his own pubic hair off (Yenande? Naanu shaata terkobeka?) I giggled and stood watching this for sometime.

Hoping that my seat would be nowhere near the pubic hair man’s, I walked in and found that sitting next to me was a middle-aged woman who sighed when I took the seat next to hers. Her husband who was sitting on her other side sighed louder. Behind me, a bunch of Telugu speaking college boys sat and proclaimed deep lou for Allu Arjun.

‘Screw you’, I said. I was here for Anushka Shetty. Actually Jejamma. But I forgot about Jejamma sooner than I want to admit because there was more Bahubali in the movie than Jejamma.

The movie opens with Marco Polo (I swear) addressing a board meeting that quickly ends when he expresses respect for Rudhramadevi. Rudhramadevi is the princess of Kakatiya dynasty, who upon birth was declared a boy because the enemies would have usurped the throne if they found out that the queen had failed to produce a male heir.  So Rudhramadevi becomes Rudradeva and is oblivious to her sex throughout her childhood.

It’s when she sees boobs on a sculpture for the first time that she becomes suspicious.

In a startling throwback to Bahubali, Rudradeva looks at his reflection in a pool of water and sees Rudhramadevi – a girl. Next thing she knows, her pants are wet with her menstrual blood. And so it is that she becomes a woman. Taking a slight detour away from Bahubali, the woman here becomes a woman by her own accord; though this is something that will eventually get punctured more than twice in the movie.

So she is Rudradeva by day – riding eloquent white horses, sword-fighting the crap out of her male cousins, taming a wild elephant with her bare hands, escaping death loads of times, apparently doing everything men do. By night, however, she escapes through a trapdoor, goes underground and embraces her womanhood with all her might — which means that she becomes fairer, more charming, dances and sings with other women, apparently doing everything women do.

Actress Anushka in Rudramadevi Movie Stills

This goes on for a while and then Allu Arjun comes and everybody in the movie and in the theatre salivated. See, I like the man, he’s gorgeous and something about the way he delivers his dialogues is like watching Telugu slam poetry.  But post his entry, the movie seemed to slow down and I started missing Bahubali. It seemed almost deliberate how the narration suffered at this point. As if everybody in the movie literally stepped out and made space for him so he could emerge triumphant.

images (1)

I wondered if this happened because the movie was trying too hard to cast him as an equal to Rudhramadevi. It became very visible because this is something he didn’t have to struggle for in Arya 1 & 2 or any of his other movies for that matter.

Chalukya Veerabhadra (played by Rana Daggubati) seemed to make up for this slack in direction. In another tribute to Bahubali, while sword-fighting with Rudradeva, Veerabhadra accidentally disrobes Rudradeva and finds Rudhramadevi, the woman he’s been in love with. This quickly became one among the very few moments when the movie surprised me. And this is because I expected something to happen after this earth-shattering revelation but as I came to learn, nothing happened.

Nothing ever happens. This is probably why I liked the movie a little bit because there is this one big secret that you know and you hold on to, like you would an ice- cream. You expect it to melt but it doesn’t.

I sat up straight when Rudhramadevi’s marriage to Muktamba (Nithya Menen) was fixed. I was convinced that they would not get married. When they got engaged, I told myself that I would be the happiest woman in the world if they get married. And they do get married. The woman sitting next to me quietly giggled into her husband’s shoulder when they did. And that’s the proof that they did get married.

I waited for the ice-cream to melt because now I was sure that it would. But on their first night, Rudradeva uses the poor state of his kingdom as an excuse to avoid sex. Later in the movie however, it is revealed that Muktamba knew long before anybody else did that Rudradeva is Rudhramadevi. When their fingers touched to exchange rings during their engagement, Muktamba knew but decided to go ahead with the marriage anyway.

Much as I enjoyed this conversation and the fact that they remain married, I couldn’t find what I abundantly found in Arundhati or even Bahubali; which was an easy relationship that I had with the characters. Everytime Rudhramadevi picked up a sword, I was praying no man would come and help her. This was something I didn’t have to worry about when Jejamma picked up a sword.

In Bahubali, I was able to prod my way into the story. I was aware of how captivated I was for a full three hours and fifteen minutes. Right from Bahubali climbing the enormous mountain to Ramya Krishna killing a man with one arm while she held an infant in the other — to the epic war scenes.

This is something that Rudhramadevi doesn’t give its audience. However, I do take consolation in the fact that my favourite scene in the movie has Muktamba and her friends drunk as hell and teasing each other.

images

Bollywood

Untitled

In Mr. India, a 1987 Hindi movie, Mr. Gaitonde (Annu Kapoor) is a newspaper editor who is tortured to bits everyday by wrong numbers. When he is not coughing like a patient on his massive chair, he is yelling into the phone begging people on the other end to ‘Please try to understand my problem’.

This is because someone has called him to book tickets for a matinee show at Ruby Talkies and then within seconds, somebody else has called him to complain about a buffalo that has stopped giving milk. In between this string of madness, he has to deal with angry reporter Seema (Sridevi) who cannot file stories on time because she hates kids. This is a scene that defines my childhood and in many ways, my happy relationship with Bollywood movies.

This amusement had to remain hidden during my time in high school because everybody was humming Backstreet Boys and Westside and other boy bands, whose names I vowed to by-heart after a freakish episode involving slam books. Everybody in school was gaga for Enrique Iglesias. I had only just heard his name once, listened to ‘Escape’ twice, and knew that he had a mole and that it was the best. And that’s why I wrote his name under favourite singer in one of the many slam books. Two days later, a friend comes to me looking flustered, demanding to know ‘who the fuck this Henry. K is’?

In 1994, we had just moved to Shimoga and as we unpacked our box of audio and video cassettes, a familiar wave of hunger took over me. I fished out the two most important video cassettes of my life, harassed all the uncles to set up the VCR for me and sat on the black and white mosaic tiles to watch my movies. Soon, it became a tradition to inaugurate the first night at new homes with ‘Hum Hain Rahi Pyar ke’ and ‘Mr. India.’ Mother would constantly remind us of the pointlessness of watching movies for the 50th time, while we sat in rapt attention as though it was our first time watching these movies. On repeat we watched ‘Chameli Ki Shaadi’, ‘Satte Pe Satta’, ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’, and ‘Do Aur Do Paanch.’ We knew the lines by heart, knew what music would precede what dialogue and waited for our favourite scenes.

In Satte pe Satta, it was when Hema Malini comes home to find that her husband has 7 brothers. In Chameli Ki Shaadi, it was when Chameli tricks her parents and elopes with her lover. In Amar Akbar Anthony, it was Amitabh’s drunken conversation with himself. In Do Aur Do Paanch, it was Suresh and how nobody knows him.

When we began to irritably move things around our schedule just to be able to watch movies we have already watched, mother and father decided to keep cinema out of the house and ventured out to catch a movie every week secretly. My sister and I would rush to their bedroom soon after school just to make sure that they were there and not having a wild time somewhere, watching a movie.

Even so, mother was a bigger movie buff than anybody else and she bent the rules when she believed that sometimes really good movies can be watched twice. In Belgaum, she had us bunk our afternoon class to go watch ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ with her at Nartaki. It’s a theatre I still remember because it was the only theatre we went to, and also because at the entrance, it had two white figurines of women wearing nothing.

When we were making our way back from the theatre, we would desperately want to ask mother what she thought of the movie. Her opinion was profound. It somehow didn’t matter whether or not we liked it because she would always have something to say.

Bollywood probably always meant Shah Rukh Khan for me. I will blink twice and confess to you that I have never watched Sholay, but I will close my mouth and ‘haww’ if you have never watched DDLJ. I sold this movie to students once to make them see how cows in Western Europe are different from the cows in Eastern Europe or Basavangudi for that matter.

Slowly, watching Bollywood movies started to extend its boundaries to wanting to know more about these stars and somehow the only way I could get them involved in my life was by collecting their posters. This was banned at home and the only time I braved it, mother found my stash of collections and set fire to it. Years later, I would follow her footsteps and set fire to my journals because they weren’t safe and mother kept looking for them to read.

My father, the staunch Kannadiga has been a consistent Tamil cinema lover. Even though his affection comes from hating how much Sandalwood sucks, he watches on repeat some really old MGR movies. Simultaneously, he mourns the loss of all great Kannada actors and despises Upendra whose movies I love. His irritation hits nuanced levels when he sees some of the posters that bleed in red with titles like ‘Thriller Manja’ and ‘Deadly Soma’.

Today, I will still sit comfortably and watch Go Goa Gone or a Dabangg or any Akshay Kumar movie even though Tata Sky brings to me a host of other movies I have never watched. Years ago, in degree, I had a lot of Telugu speaking friends and soon I had watched and loved Happy Days, Magadheera, and all the Aryas. Now and then, I will watch a movie like Arundhati and want to write a whole piece about it. It’s just a want so after yawning a couple of times it goes away.